When the pressure’s on, Romney shrinks

There’s a fairly intense debate underway within Republican circles on the merit of House Speaker John Boehner’s (R) budget proposal, to be voted on this afternoon. All of the major players and institutions are weighing in, and there are some real powerhouses on both sides of the intra-party divide.

And then there’s Mitt Romney, who doesn’t want to talk about it.

Republican presidential candidates are, not surprisingly, routinely asked to weigh in on the major stories of the day. It’s not just campaign reporters — activists and voters want to know how would-be presidents feel about pressing national developments.

Initially, the GOP field was reluctant to weigh in, and that hardly came as a surprise. Picking a side meant alienating a significant chunk of the party base. By yesterday, however, many Republican candidates started falling off the fence, with Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, and Michele Bachmann announcing their opposition to Boehner’s plan, and Jon Huntsman announcing his support.

And yet, the frontrunner is apparently too afraid to pick a side.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) finds himself facing greater scrutiny for not having staked out a position on House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) debt-ceiling plan, hours ahead of a planned vote on that proposal in the House.

Romney’s assiduously avoided commenting directly on the proposal put forth by the Speaker, all while an increasing number of his competitors for the Republican presidential nomination have made their positions clear.

The campaign’s putative frontrunner has said he “applauds” Boehner for his efforts to craft a plan to rein in spending. But that doesn’t mean he supports it, per se.

Voters looking for leadership can turn to Mitt Romney — who will tell them to keep looking elsewhere.

Ben Smith noted Romney’s reluctance to pick a side “doesn’t exactly project strength.”

No, it doesn’t. Like flip-flopping on practically every issue, every time the winds change direction, it projects a degree of cowardice.

NBC’s “First Read” added some worthwhile questions: “How does someone who wants to be the leader of the Republican Party not have a position on one of the biggest issues facing Washington, especially after the dueling primetime speeches by Obama and Boehner? It’s actually quite surprising; this isn’t just another Washington fight. Is the lack of a position proof of how fragile Team Romney believes its front-runner status is right now?”

Romney was never likely to be nominated for a Profile in Courage award, but this is just pathetic. Does Romney not realize part of being president is making tough decisions and taking firm stands, even if some people will disapprove?