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Republican Romney turns aside "flip-flopper" charge

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 28 Sep 2011 21:48 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* Romney: "When facts change, I change my mind"

* Campaign introduces Perry's "Pinocchio Problem"

By Jason McLure

GOFFSTOWN, N.H., Sept 28 (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, seeking to bolster his wide lead in the polls in the key primary state of New Hampshire, on Wednesday rejected criticism that he has flip-flopped on key policy issues.

Romney's evolving positions have long been fodder for Democrats. Recently he has met similar criticism from Texas Governor Rick Perry, with whom Romney is vying for front-runner status in the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

"When facts change, I change my mind," Romney said in response to a question at a town hall meeting in Goffstown. "I'm very happy with where I am and what I believe in."

The former governor of Massachusetts has altered positions on abortion, gay rights and gun control during campaigns for the presidency, governor and U.S. Senate dating to 1994.

But he said suggestions from Perry and Democrats that he supported the ${esc.dollar}800 billion stimulus plan passed by Congress in 2009, which he now labels a failure, were wrong.

"I have never supported the stimulus -- no time, nowhere, no how," he told a cheering audience of about 250 supporters.

Romney's campaign released material about "Perry's 'Pinocchio' Problem," referring to the fictional wooden puppet whose nose grew longer each time he told a lie. The Romney camp charges that Perry is simply passing on "distortions and tall tales" about what Romney has said in the past.

For its part, Perry's campaign unveiled an advertisement on Wednesday calling Romney's position on the stimulus a "Stimu-flop." Democrats circulated a transcript of Romney's appearance on CNN in January 2009, in which he appeared to support for a stimulus package when Congress was weighing a version of what would become President Obama's stimulus plan.

Romney said he supported alternative Republican stimulus proposals that circulated at the time.

He also repeated his view on climate change, saying he believes Earth is getting warmer and that humans were contributing "some portion of that," although he is not sure how much.

He praised the use of natural gas and nuclear fuels for emitting less carbon dioxide but voiced opposition to government restrictions on carbon emissions -- an element of his broad theme of having less intrusive regulation.

"When we asked the EPA to regulate emissions, we didn't intend for you to regulate CO2, which we exhale," he said.

Romney said he opposes programs that limit emissions and allow polluters to buy and sell permits, known as cap and trade, because they raise the costs of energy and force energy-intensive industries overseas.

"The idea that we're going to make it more expensive here so people get up and go elsewhere does not appeal to me," Romney said.

(Reporting by Jason McLure, editing by Ros Krasny)

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