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.
dont worry about it Mitt, these complainers are all mouth and no substance, they
make a living spewing idealogy , they serve no useful purpose in
life. I mean really, who in the hell is Ben Smith and who in the hell cares
what he says, so dont sweat the small stuff Mitt!!!!!!!!!!
What do you expect from a coward.
just another political dictator like pobama, be careful what you say about the Tea Party, we may just pounce on you and show you what We The Unheard People have to say, come election time, all those who dont know us will truely understand who we are. Our voices will be REAL LOUD.
Is this willful ignorance? Congressman Ron Paul does not get a mention in this story. He has NEVER voted to raise the debt ceiling. He has never voted for an unbalanced budget. He is the only Congressman and Presidential contender with clean hands on this issue. Furthermore, he ran TV adverts condemning the irresponsibility in Washington, burdening our children and grandchildren with debt. If Romney is the missing person on the milk carton (a valid criticism, indeed), Paul owns the dairy. I guess Bachmann gets a mention because she drove the milk cart.
Romney is so funny. He is clearly trying to appease pretty much anyone who might vote for him. He is waging a careful campaign to not annoy the right-wing, when his record says he is a moderate. I like him as a moderate. I don't like his pandering to the tea party. And oh, by the way, although the mormons don't PRACTICE polygamy anymore, they still BELIEVE in it. There is polygamy in the afterlife. Ask one of their roving missionaries.
Well, Mitt had to see which way the wind was blowing before he said anything.
This guy is Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley's boy. No way I'd vote for Wall St. by supporting this loser and his magic underwear.
So, Romney pitches himself as a manager who would guide the nation in a business-like manner would prefer to default on 40% of the federal govt's existing commitments. The issue had been negotiated to death and it was a vote for this compromise or default.
Just wait. Using his inner "sleazy used car salesman" Willard will turn this milk carton thing into a "Got Mitt?" campaign slogan.
Romney, Huntsman, Bachman or who ever. It's not going to happen. Only chance the Republican Party has in 2012 is Ron Paul. Absent him, Obama is in another 4.
I want my Romney 2012 campaign flip-flops!
What we need is less vocal politicians. I am tired of the vocal ones.
"Got Mitt?" Yeah, I've Mitt pegged. It is me, or does Romney always looks like his a bit nervous? It's as if he has this self doubt that he's afraid that the rest of us will notice.
Does anyone, even Mitt himself, think he has even a remote chance of being President? Gargamel and the Smurfs are more politically acute than Mitt.
He said he's vote for default. Do you want him as President?
She is the only choice.
So what if America goes belly up...defaults on it's debt...and the economy crashes and burns.
Michele will still tell us Teabagging morons what we want to hear.
His Magic Underwear must be too tight.
Of course he doesn't want to back a deal. If the U.S. economy were to tank because they didn't raise the debt limit then Obama's bid for 2012 would be in jeopardy thus giving Romney a boost. I hope the voters remember this come 2012, putting your political future ahead of what's good for America isn't the least bit patriotic.
go figure what does that say about romney, like other gop runners they never remember what they say. Mr. Romney you was quoted as saying such words now your back stepping and you want or votes. I think not.
Romney is trying his best to keep his nose clean prior to any primary races, so his opponents can't get him on anything. He has been MIA on pretty much all the issues. I assume he hopes this tactic will propel him to get the nomination and then he will continue with it in the National election.
"The GOP biggest deception is getting the Poor and Middle class to believe they are out to help them"
All these conservatives were clinging to cut, cap and balance when there was no chance for it. That's not compromise.
Did anyone expect Mitt to do anything differently? He was just waiting for someone to tell him what to do.
His Mittness, Romney who? Which Mitt? More like Walter Mitty!
Flippity Floppity Floop reminds me of John McCain