Phil Maddocks: Romney changes position again, will now run as a black woman

Philip Maddocks

Seeking to capitalize on what he is now calling "an evolving campaign, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney announced following his victory in Michigan that he had changed his position on himself and is currently running as a black woman in the Democratic primary.

"This country is ready for big change, and I am ready to deliver it – as a black woman," Romney said to a modest crowd of confused onlookers during a stump speech in Columbia, S.C.

"Together, we have a chance to make history by electing the first white man to run as a black woman," added the former Massachusetts governor, the clear fingernail polish on his right hand glistening in the klieg lights as he formed a fist, pounded his chest and looked skyward for emphasis, his eyes welling up briefly with emotion.

Romney insisted his identity change wasn’t some cheap political attempt at repositioning himself with voters. The revelation, he said, came to him suddenly and naturally, during a meeting with his campaign advisors.

"Mitt is the only candidate from either party with the business credentials to attract fiscally conservative Republicans and the audacity to hope that Democratic voters will accept his vision of himself as a black woman," said a Romney spokesman who said he himself had been mistakenly identified as a black and as a woman by several South Carolina residents.

Mr. Romney’s advisers made clear that their candidate’s "change," however fleeting, will be their dominant theme, believing it is a message that gives them a chance to draw a clear contrast for now with the other presidential candidates, including Democratic contenders Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

"In many ways, it’s easier for us to post up against Obama and Clinton than it is against the other Republicans," said a senior adviser to Romney. "They all pretty much look and sound alike. Obama, on the other hand, is black and Hillary is a woman. So we think Mitt’s new message will resonate more with Democratic voters who are used to having a black and a woman in the race and may see a white candidate pretending to be a black woman as a refreshing change from Washington politics as usual."

Moe Bon Mots, a media consultant and landscaper for Mr. Romney who used to work as a strength and conditioning coach for Republican presidential candidate John McCain, said the message played to the strong points in Mr. Romney’s résumé.

"It is right in the wheelhouse of where Mitt Romney thinks he wants to be," he said.

Mr. Romney unveiled an advertisement on Thursday featuring voters criticizing Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton on their efforts on behalf of African-Americans and women.

"They’ve had their chance in Washington to make things better," an African-American transvestite says at the conclusion of the advertisement.

Over the last week in Iowa, Mr. Romney tried to work the theme of his skin color and gender change, although it was often overshadowed by other messages, like his focus on his own family values in response to Republican presidential candidate Mike  Huckabee’s strength among social conservatives.

On Wednesday evening at a town-hall-style forum this week, Romney unveiled a stump speech that has been revamped from the one he used in Iowa, building his remarks entirely around his "blackness and femaleness" theme.

"Washington is simply broken," he said. "Sending the same black and female people back to Washington and just having them fill different chairs is not going to change Washington. If you want to change Washington, it’ll take somebody going there who not only speaks about the politics of hope, but has lived it, and I can think of no better example of living that hope, ladies and gentleman, than my candidacy. I stand here before you, my friends, a simple, rich, white male, and I ask you to accept me for what I have now decided to become, the only black female candidate in the race."

The Clinton campaign issued a statement saying eloquent words were nice and could serve as inspiration, but actions were more important. In the statement, the former first lady points out she has had a long, distinguished record of having been female, and has, on occasion, slept with former president Bill Clinton, sometimes referred to metaphorically as the country’s "first black president."

Speaking during a campaign stop at a predominantly female hair salon in Charleston, S.C., Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama dismissed Romney’s new claims as just another example of "the politics of destruction."

Mr. Obama also questioned the timing of Mr. Romney’s decision to run as a black woman.

"It seems that Governor Romney is deliberately raising the issue of race and gender just as the campaigns of the Democratic frontrunners are taking off," Obama said. "I don’t want to believe that, but I’ve got to tell you, I’m wondering."

In a statement issued through his campaign office, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards said, "I agree with Barack."

Mr. Romney, who has taken to emphasizing his "politics of construction" with a more flamboyant and rhythmic from-the-pulpit flourish, dismissed such criticism as "powerless as the dogs and hoses sent forth by Bull Connor," referencing a former Commissioner of Public Safety for Birmingham, Alabama and his actions when he clashed with civil rights demonstrators led by Martin Luther King in 1963,  

"Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead," Romney told a crowd of supporters in South Carolina. "But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. I just want to do Mitt's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there as an African-Americans female. But I will get there. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any change. Mine eyes have seen the glory."

Philip Maddocks can be reached at