Steve Chapman

Obama found himself in the strange though not unexpected position of being attacked for using Romney's Massachusetts health care program as a model. When the subject came up, Romney said that "the best course for health care is to do what we did in my state." Obama tried to do that, but Romney won't take yes for an answer.

Having it both ways and all ways is Romney's specialty. In his previous life, he supported abortion rights, gun control and gays in the military. Today, not so much.

It's not just positions Romney held years ago that he has jettisoned; it's also positions he's taken in this campaign. One Mitt Romney attacked Texas Gov. Rick Perry for endorsing the Dream Act, which would allow some people brought to this country illegally as children to gain legal status. When Obama decided to stop their deportations, this Romney criticized the decision.

But the other Mitt Romney refused to disclose whether he would keep it. Then he said he would allow those young people reprieved by Obama to stay until Congress enacts "the full immigration reform plan that I've proposed."

What exactly that "reform" would consist of remains unclear to the young immigrants and everyone else. As with his plan to cut tax loopholes, the details and even the outline will be drawn later.

Romney's temperate debate approach was intended to reassure independent voters who fear he'll be a hostage of the Tea Party. But it had another, stranger effect: When he was upholding hard-right positions, conservative commentators regarded him as irredeemably moderate. Now that he's embracing moderation, they hail him as a conservative hero.

But whatever your views on an issue, you can hold out hope that Romney shares them, or soon will. With him, no position is ever final; no star is ever fixed.

This presidential campaign has produced few laughs but at least one joke: A liberal, a conservative and a moderate walk into a bar. The bartender says, "Hi, Mitt."

Steve Chapman

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

©Creators Syndicate