Update: Read the Talking Politics blog for David Bernstein's excerpts and analysis of the new paperback edition of Mitt Romney's book "No Apology."
When Mitt Romney's second book, No Apology, came out a year ago, it looked like he was moving away from the far-right demagoguery of his 2008 bid for the presidency, and toward a more moderate centrism for the 2012 election cycle. (See "New and Improved Romney," Talking Politics, February 10, 2010.)
But times change, and so does Mitt. A year later, with the Tea Party–fueled extremism of the 2010 midterms foretelling a rightward tilt to the GOP presidential primaries, Romney is tacking back — as evidenced by changes made to two sections of the text in the new paperback edition of No Apology.
The first rewrite excises a relatively even-handed assessment of the 2009 economic-stimulus package. In the original, Romney wrote that it "will accelerate the timing of the start of the recovery, but not as much as it could have." The paperback pronounces the stimulus "a failure," and blasts Obama's "economic missteps" with conservative red-meat language — for example: "This is the first time government has declared war on free enterprise."
The other major change comes in a chapter on health care. In the original hardcover, Romney tried to carefully distinguish between the Massachusetts law and the national version that was nearing passage as he wrote.
But the Massachusetts model has become Romney's bête noire among conservatives, who loathe the national reform they call "Obamacare." The rewritten paperback swings much harder, proclaiming that "Obamacare will not work and should be repealed," and "Obamacare is an unconstitutional federal incursion into the rights of states."
Other additions in that section blame the Massachusetts legislature for altering his plan, and the current Democratic administration of Governor Deval Patrick for botching the implementation.
Asked about the changes, Eric Fehrnstrom, spokesperson for Romney's Free and Strong America PAC, responded by e-mail: "The book was originally written in the months immediately following President Obama's inauguration. A lot has occurred over the last two years, and these updates reflect those happenings."
That's true. Of course, it's also true of many other topics in No Apology, virtually all of which is reproduced exactly from the hardcover.
"I'm sure he saw what happened to Trey Grayson, Mike Castle, and Sue Lowden last year," says Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling in North Carolina, referring to Republicans who lost US Senate primaries to Tea Party–backed candidates in Kentucky, Delaware, and Nevada. "It's those same voters who nominated Sharron Angle [for US Senate in Nevada] who are going to choose the Republican presidential nominee."
Romney certainly appears to be targeting those voters in the paperback's new introduction, in which he bemoans the "elite" liberals' destruction of everything the Founding Fathers stood for — especially "freedom," a word that appears 25 times in the introduction. "Constitution" shows up 11 times. The Tea Party gets mentioned by name, as does the Glenn Beck–promoted 9/12 movement — even Joe the Plumber gets a shout-out.
The subtitle has also changed, from "The case for American greatness" to the more campaign-sloganish "Believe in America." Whether Tea Party voters can believe in the ever-shifting Romney is still a question.