Romney’s Etch A Sketch for the home stretch

It was way back in March, about a million Twitter news cycles ago, that Mitt Romney’s man behind the curtain, Eric Fehrnstrom, announced what nearly anyone who has followed Romney’s career could have known: That after securing the Republican nomination based on an awkwardly worded self-appraisal as a “severely conservative” governor of Massachusetts, Romney would reposition himself toward the center for the general election. “Everything changes,” Fehrnstrom said in an appearance on CNN. “It’s almost like an Etch a Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.”

Last week, the New York Times said Bill Clinton, whose Democratic National Convention speech was a home run for Obama, may have whiffed badly in convincing the Obama campaign to attack Romney as a far-right conservative, not the shape-shifting flip-flopper the campaign had been portraying him to be.

Romney’s shape-shifting is so pronounced that the Globe rolls out a coverage package this morning to take stock of it.  Matt Viser’s story describes the shift, which began most clearly during the first presidential debate, on October 3, when Romney began appealing to undecided women voters with a new empathetic tone suggesting he feels their pain and struggles in a shaky economy.  Romney has flipped so completely on so many issues that the paper runs a second Viser story that lays out the then-versus-now positions on everything from contraceptive access to immigration and Middle East policy.  One of the “then” (immigration) that differs so sharply with the “now” position was laid out only a month before Romney’s new tack to the middle. (One telling sign of the new move to the Mitt-il: his severely conservative running mate  Paul Ryan is receding from view, the Los Angeles Times reports.)

Obama has tried to pivot his criticism, recently framing the race as a question of which candidate can be trusted to say what they believe and do what they have consistently been saying.  He’s coined a term — Romnesia — for his opponent’s sudden ditching of hard-right stands that he’s been trumpeting for years.

We’ll know in 8 days whether the Romney reinvention wins over the remaining sliver of late-deciding voters or whether it proves to be one new Mitt too many.

                                                                                                                                                  –MICHAEL JONAS

HURRICANE SANDY

Bracing for Hurricane Sandy’s full force later Monday, the state is in shutdown mode, as Gov. Deval Patrick asks schools and colleges to close today and asks that nonessential workers in government and private businesses stay home.

Utility companies promise improved performance to deal with likely power outages.

Cape officials open three shelters.

Some candidates worry that Hurricane Sandy could turn their lawn signs into projectiles and are asking supporters to bring them inside so they don’t get blamed at the ballot box for damage. Sandy may prove to be the October surprise. More here.

BEACON HILL

The Patrick administration is demanding that the head chemist at a firm affiliated with New England Compounding Center resign from the state board that oversees pharmacies, saying there are now questions about whether she recused herself from board actions concerning the two firms.

The Berkshire Eagle warns against creating a bloated bureaucracy to deal with the drug lab scandal.

Question 1 supporters are now pushing for voters to say “yes” to the “right to repair ballot question after an agreement instructing voters to leave the question blank after the compromise legislation that passed this summer fell apart.

Tim Cahill: Hurricane fan.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Officials in Weymouth, Rockland, and Abington say the quasi-public agency overseeing the development of the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station has not turned over the excess revenue it has generated as required by law.

Boston Mayor Tom Menino has been hospitalized with an apparent virus after returning home early from a scheduled two-week vacation in Italy. The Globe says he’s been hospitalized “roughly a dozen times” during his two decades as mayor.

ELECTION 2012

The Globe endorses President Obama for reelection, calling him  “the key to a brighter future and the bulwark against a return to the chaos of the Bush years.”

Obama still treads carefully on race, even with trusted friends like Gov. Deval Patrick.

The National Review says an attack ad by a Democratic “super PAC” about a Massachusetts company, owned in part by Mitt Romney through his Bain investments, that closed an Illinois manufacturing plant hit “a new low” in campaign advertising by calling Romney “an economic traitor.” It’s unclear if the previous low was set by Romney surrogate John Sununu, who said President Obama should “learn how to be an American” and questioned whether Colin Powell based his endorsement on race. BuzzFeed lets the Romney and Obama campaigns edit each other’s campaign memos on vote counting in the crucial state of Ohio. Don’t believe those desperate-sounding Obama campaign emails: The campaigns are tied in TV ad spending, even after accounting for super PACs. Paul Krugman predicts “savage cuts” to Medicaid under Romney. Some historians opine that Romney is the less open than Richard Nixon.

WBUR’s On Point explores what would happen if there is an electoral college tie.

Andrew Sullivan says the nation is effectively in a Cold Civil War.

On Sunday, the Globe endorsed Elizabeth Warren. Both the Patriot Ledger and the Brockton Enterprise, owned by GateHouse Media, endorsed Sen. Scott Brown. So did the Eagle-Tribune, saying the race wouldn’t even be close if it was in any other state, the Lowell Sun, and the Gloucester Times. Brown says if Elizabeth Warren needs a ride to the debate tomorrow night because of Hurricane Sandy, he’ll  pick her up because, after all, he has a truck with four-wheel drive. In the latest issue, the CommonWealth staff offers five different looks at the Senate race, sort of a political kaleidoscope. Warren storms into Southie.

State Sen. Barry Finegold, trying to fend off a challenge from Rep. Paul Adams, offers up a slight twist on a familiar refrain: He’s the second-most bipartisan Democrat in the state Senate, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Wall Street Journal reports that most of the people who have dropped out of the labor force are retirees, students, and stay-at-home parents, not the chronically unemployed, undercutting a frequent Romney criticism.

RELIGION

A Norwell pastor who had been an outspoken critic of the Boston Archdiocese’s handling of the clergy sex abuse scandal was placed on leave after allegations of inappropriate behavior with children.

EDUCATION

Fall River’s new report cards will no longer have letter grades but will have a standards-based system to break down student achievement.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Long range forecasts call for a harsher winter this year than last and that means people who heat with oil, which costs nearly two-and-a-half times what natural gas costs, will be hit with significant bills, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Boston is launching a program to build energy-positive homes, which will generate more power than they use and sell the surplus back to the power grid.

Chatham officials consider banning swimming at one of the town’s beaches next summer due to increased Great White shark activity.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

US District Court Judge Richard Stearns denies a defense motion that he step down from presiding over the trial of accused murderer Whitey Bulger. Stearns is a former federal prosecutor and Bulger’s lawyer has said he will call him as a witness in the case.

An investigation by the Oregonian finds states often don’t share child-abuse records.

The Abbott Mill apartment complex in Lowell plans to use DNA tests on dog poop to determine which owners are not picking up after their pets, the Sun reports.

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

MEDIA

Four Boston neighborhood newspapers in South Boston, Dorchester, Hyde Park, and Jamaica Plain, owned by the local Tribune Publishing Company, have ceased publication.