CAN THE REINVENTED STILL REINVENT THEMSELVES?…. NBC News’ First Read reported yesterday that the Mitt Romney who campaigned in New Hampshire over the weekend was quite a bit different from the Romney we saw in 2008. The former Massachusetts governor, among other things, “avoided talk of social issues and focused on economic ones.”

“This, in short,” First Read noted, “is Romney 3.0.”

Romney 1.0 was the socially moderate businessman who won election as Massachusetts governor in 2002. Romney 2.0 was the socially conservative presidential candidate who ran to John McCain’s and Rudy Giuliani’s right on abortion, stem cells, and illegal immigration in 2007-2008. And Romney 3.0 appears to be the repeat presidential candidate who will focus more on the economy and his business record than on social issues.

Yet as the New York Times’ Zeleny writes, Romney’s transformation also applies to his appearance. “Mr. Romney is trying to present a more relaxed image to combat impressions that he is unapproachable and stiff. He has not been seen in a necktie for months… He turned up in the pit area of the Daytona 500 last month, mingling with race car drivers while wearing a Bass Pro Shops shirt. And last week, Mr. Romney, who put his wealth four years ago around $200 million, walked into Tommy’s Barber Shop in an Atlanta strip mall for a haircut.”

Of course, Romney 3.0 is how we all thought he was going to run at the beginning of the 2008 cycle. And it’s closer to his true political identity….

It’s a fair analysis, but I’m honestly not sure if Mitt Romney has a “true political identity.” He regularly sheds skins in preparation for the next challenge, and hopes we won’t pay too close attention (or have access to Google), but the notion of Romney having an unshakable core that helps define his beliefs strikes me as rather silly on its face.

Romney 3.0 is a compelling assessment, but it may not do Romney justice. Oliver Willis reminds us that there was also the “independent Romney who distanced himself from Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush when he ran against Ted Kennedy.”

So I suppose we’re looking at Romney 4.0?

All things being equal, I suppose Romney is what passes for a GOP frontrunner, at least for now, but be prepared to hear the phrase “authenticity problem” several thousand times over the next year or so.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.