Steve Chapman

Running for the Senate against Ted Kennedy in 1994, Romney announced, "I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country." In 2008, he admitted reversing himself on abortion rights. But he said that as governor, on "every issue that related to protecting the sanctity of life, I came down on the side of life" -- eliciting disagreement from pro-life groups, whose memories differed.

Changing positions on a major issue isn't unusual among presidential candidates, and it isn't necessarily fatal. After opposing President George W. Bush's tax cuts in 2001, McCain supported them seven years later. During his presidential campaign, Obama, who once endorsed a ban on handguns, assured voters, "I won't take your handgun away."

Romney, however, should be past the stage where he explains his metamorphosis from a liberal Republican to a conservative one. That was what his 2008 presidential campaign was for. This time, his focus could be on demonstrating that, alone in the field, he has what it takes to unseat Obama.

By bungling his economic message, Romney revives the suspicion that he can't stick to a position or stick to the facts. He also undermines his main advantage: the belief among many Republicans that the economy will be the deciding issue and that Romney, with his business background and managerial acumen, is best suited to exploit it.

But on the economy, he can't keep his story straight. It brings to mind Ted Kennedy's wisecrack about Romney's abortion views: "I am pro-choice. My opponent is multiple choice."

Romney should be debating the Obama administration on the economy. Lately, he's debating himself, and he's losing.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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