Can Mitt Romney Out-Mitt-Romney Mitt Romney?

Slightly late to this, but still, all signs point to yes:

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Wednesday he opposed Senate Republicans’ effort that critics say would limit insurance coverage of birth control, then reversed himself quickly in a second interview saying he misunderstood the question.

Romney told Ohio News Network during an interview that he opposed a measure by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., that was scheduled for a vote Thursday. “I’m not for the bill,” Romney said before urging the interviewer to move on.

Romney later said he didn’t understand the question.

“Of course I support the Blunt amendment. I thought he was talking about some state law that prevented people from getting contraception so I was simply — misunderstood the question and of course I support the Blunt amendment,” Romney later told Howie Carr’s radio program in Boston, noting that Blunt is his campaign’s point man in the Senate.

Just hours earlier, ONN reporter Jim Heath asked Romney about rival Rick Santorum and the cultural debate happening in the campaign and the legislation proposed by Blunt and co-sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

“He’s brought contraception into this campaign. The issue of birth control — contraception, Blunt-Rubio — is being debated, I believe, later this week. It deals with banning or allowing employers to ban providing female contraception. Have you taken a position on it?” Heath said. “He (Santorum) said he was for that. We’ll talk about personhood in a second, but he’s for that. Have you taken a position?”

Romney replied: “I’m not for the bill, but look, the idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a woman, husband and wife, I’m not going there.”

………………………….

Sorry, blacked out there for a minute. I can barely follow this.

I guess Romney is claiming that when asked about a rather major issue that everyone has been talking about for a couple weeks, he thought the reporter was actually referring to a non-existent proposed state law banning contraception? I agree with Mitt Romney that contraception should be legal!

But Romney is all too easy to beat up on sometimes, so here’s an attempt at a very generous interpretation: Heath’s phrasing was slightly confusing, since he said that the bill in question “deals with banning or allowing employers to ban providing female contraception.” That isn’t fantastic English, and I guess it could be parsed as referring to some unspecified law banning contraception. Maybe. But Heath also referred to Blunt by name, and, again, debates over banning contraception haven’t been part of the campaign (though at this point, would it be all that shocking?), so I’m skeptical.

Still, I’d chalk this up more to sloppiness or exhaustion than to flip-flopping. The problem from Romney’s point of view is that this image of him is so ingrained (and rightfully so) that it is the prism through which everyone views almost everything he does.

It’s almost as though he is a candidate with rather glaring weaknesses. Almost.

Jesse Singal

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.