E.J. Dionne picks up on the president's line of attack:
What Romney has going for him is a journalistic presumption that he is either a closet "moderate" or so opportunistic that he is altogether lacking in a coherent worldview. The first is wrong. The second is unfair to Romney. What he believes matters, and it is the biggest obstacle between him and the White House.
I somewhat differ with Dionne in that it seems to me there exists not even the remotest relationship between the politician "Mitt Romney" and actual "Beliefs." Romney is, hands down, the most ruthlessly cynical pol since Aaron Burr; he never believed what he claimed to believe when he ran for the Senate or served as a governor--offices that were but useful desiderata on his professional path of an idée fixe, which Romney is now trying to fulfill.
Yet I do, of course, quite agree that what Romney says he believes matters, which is President Obama's truer line of attack, as he sketched it out for Rolling Stone magazine:
I don't think that their nominee is going to be able to suddenly say, "Everything I've said for the last six months, I didn't mean." I'm assuming that he meant it.
What Team Obama has adopted here is what we might call the academic approach. To explain ...
When I was a grad student, my chief interest within the broader study of American political history was, specifically, the practice of demagoguery--an ancient virtuosity which rests mostly on bullshit. Not always, but usually. Anyway, a rhetorical studies professor offered some valuable advice in my pursuit of demagogic perspectives: The academic discipline of rhetorical studies doesn't care what a politician might have said, which at any rate a good spin artist can reinvent or on wiser reflection the pol can later "clarify"; it can only know what the pol actually said. So stay away as best you can, Carpenter, from the interdisciplinary voodoo of psychobabble and all that. Just concentrate on what the demagogue said--actually said.
And that, it goes without emphasizing, is how Obama has chosen to attack. Let us not agonize over the "true" Mitt Romney. All we can honestly do is go about "assuming that he meant" whatever he has already so precisely said.