Washington (CNN) – It was roughly nine hours before the voting began in the U.S. House of Representatives on raising the debt ceiling when a message from Mitt Romney hit the in-boxes of political reporters across the country.
"I personally cannot support this deal," the statement read.
The Republican presidential front-runner had taken a stand on the agreement reached to increase the debt limit. The problem was, conservatives said, Romney was one of the last GOP contenders to do so.
Matt Lewis, a blogger with the conservative website The Daily Caller, posted an image of Romney's face on a milk carton. Above the face of the former governor was the glaring caption: "Missing Leadership."
In Politico, Ben Smith wondered whether Romney had entered the "Mittness Protection Program."
One of Romney's rivals, a noticeably more aggressive Jon Huntsman, was also milking the issue. He all but asked: "Got Mitt?"
"To dodge the debate, or to wait until the debate is over, effectively, and to take a side, I don't consider that to be leadership," Huntsman said.
The Romney campaign has said for weeks the GOP contender favored a bill, dubbed "cut, cap and balance," that tied a debt ceiling increase to steep spending reductions and a balanced budget amendment.
"The answer for the country is for the president to agree to cut federal spending, to cap federal spending and put in place a balanced budget amendment. And that is the answer for the debt limit," Romney said at a campaign event in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, last month.
But critics cried that was not a clear position on whether to raise the debt ceiling.
Another GOP contender, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, took a stand in her first TV ad nearly a month ago.
"I will not vote to increase the debt ceiling," Bachmann said in the ad.
But flying below the radar might pay off in the long run. Note the latest Quinnipiac poll in Pennsylvania, a Democratic firewall state, where Romney is beating President Barack Obama by a slim 44-42 margin.
Republican strategist Ron Bonjean argues Romney is playing the issue just right.
"Washington, D.C., right now is like political quicksand for 2012 political candidates. If you get involved it's going to be hard for you to climb out of it," Bonjean said.
But Romney's unrelenting conservative critics complain the front-runner's lack of clarity on the issue is another installment of "Malleable Mitt," a candidate who insisted at a CNN debate in June the president had made the economy worse.
"What this president has done has slowed the economy. He didn't create the recession, but he made it worse and longer," Romney said at the debate.
He appeared to contradict himself later that month. "I didn't say that things were worse. What I said was, the economy hasn't turned around," Romney said at a campaign stop in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Romney is ramping up his campaign in August, with a slew of stops planned in Iowa and New Hampshire. Voters in those states will have plenty of opportunities to try to pin him down.
Placing the responsibiltiy on those not yet elected to office is just another effort to take the focus off those who are paid, elected officials who should be shouldering what they were elected to do. When Romney becomes President then we can place demands on him to be responsible. The focus needs to be on the President and Congress....period.
It will certainly be fashionable for Republicans to remain naysayers – they don't call them the party of no ideas for nothing. But it is particularly gutless for Bachman and other Tea Party radicals to now claim no support for a debt increase that saved the American economy, possibly too late to avoid permanent damage. American needs to flush this American Taliban feces and move on toward a more positive future. We can't run a country when hostage-taking terrorists serve in our House of Representatives.
Our Country was held hostage(Tea Party) with a ticking time bomb. And were was Super Chicken Romeny? Hiding in the Mittness Protection Center.
i love this Guy, i can't wait for him to be president.
There is going to be a major backlash, we just wait.
Romney is the only chance of beating obama that the gop has...they better treat him right
Flip-flop, flip-flop,flip-flop – republican leadership not!
How convenient! Let the others hash out the mess, put themselves on the line... then you get to second-guess and play Monday morning quarterback! Considering you weren't required to actually VOTE on it, talk is cheap. Let us know where you stand when your butt is actually on the line, Mitt.
How can anyone support a deal that does not squeeze the middle class enough dry to further stuff the coffers of the wealthy, right? Why should there be limits to wealthy's greed? The wealthy is entitled to exploit the resources of this world and the middle class until the planet is destroyed. Please vote for the party that protects the wealthy. Don't worry every now and then the wealthy will throw a bone at you to keep you busy. How can the wealthy being quite a minority still win to rule? Thank God for those social conservatives who can be so well fooled.
All but asked? You know that means almost, right? Did he ask it or not? If so, the he didn't "all but" ask it, he just asked it. If not, why would you even make something like that up?
Ah, the delightful short-sightedness of the extreme GOP. Either their sniping will take the luster off their most promising candidate, or they'll succeed in knocking Romney out of their primaries to lend the crown to someone whose wing-nuttiness will stand out like a drag queen in an Amish community, whom Obama will take apart in debates like so much tissue paper.
the magical mormon underwear must have been cutting off the circulation to his brain once again
Mitt Romney, the enemies you make by taking a decided stand generally have more respect for you!! than the friends you make by being on the fence. Next time please, drop the skirt and wear real men trousers and be a man enough to take a stand for what you truly believe in.
They're so full of anger and hatred that they're starting to tun on each other. I LOVE IT! You go, Mitty!
I can't tell any of them apart. Yes, some wear pants and some wear skirts. Other than that, they are all the same.
I really can not respect this man. I think that a good republican candidate is that texas governor. mitt romney will guarentee a win for obama
GOP leaders are tools for greediest of the greedy. People who vote for GOP leaders are hopelessly gullable. What a small tent it would be if not for a platform that capitalize$ on fear, hate and ignorance. We're one Republican administration away from being a 3rd world country.
Republicans are hypocrites when it comes to the national debt. They created it and now they blame everyone else. We haven't seen a balanced budget under a Republican president since Eisenhower.
"What this president has done has slowed the economy. He didn't create the recession, but he made it worse and longer," Romney said at the debate.... He appeared to contradict himself later that month. "I didn't say that things were worse. What I said was, the economy hasn't turned around..."
Is ANYONE sincere, honest, and transparent these days? – Not in politics...
All the Republican candidates, Pawlenty, Romney, Bachmann, etc are a joke. This is American politics at its worst. They can second-guess and ctritize this deal from the sidelines, but if they were sitting in the Oval Office, they would have done just like President Obama did (or they would have been carted off in a straightjacket)-sign this flawed, but absolutely essential, bill.
I can't believe a supposedly viable candidate like Bachmann wanted to completely destroy the world economy. Cutting spending and balanced (actually surplus until the debt is paid off) budgets should be more important than any other issue, however, destroying hundreds of millions, if not billions, of lives through famine and world war by defaulting on the debt and collapsing the economy is not a good solution.
Wingnuts have their knives ready to take Romney down . Snooki Palin is poised and ready to get Bachmann's money and media attention since her movie tanked bigtime at the box office.
2012 can't get here fast enough.. watch how many "Now" tea party people will claim they not with the tea party.. I believe all of them will be voted out .. yes i mean all of them
As opposed to ANY of the republican contenders with all those 'original' ideas that just happen to be verbatim what Rush Limbaugh said the day before, if they say anything at all...
Of course we remember Bachmann's 'great sacrifice' of cancelling campaign events to return to Washington to vote (OMG! A congress person ACTUALLY shows up to Washington to do the work she is paid to do!!! Outrageous!!!!) and denounced the deal also just the last day.
Or Pawlenty who condemned the deal AFTER the fact...
Mitt was for being against this bill long before he was against being for taking a position against being for it.