Four years ago, Mitt Romney abandoned his persona as a moderate GOP governor to become an aggressive culture warrior. As Romney saw it, that’s what it would take to win in Iowa, so that’s the character he would play.

It didn’t work. Mike Huckabee, who could sell the role with more sincerity, excelled with social conservatives and Romney quickly ran out of constituencies to pander to.

Four years later, Romney generally downplays hot-button social issues, but as he demonstrated in his speech at the Values Voter Summit yesterday, Romney version 5.0 hasn’t forgotten the culture war altogether.

“[I]t’s so important to preserve traditional marriage, the joining together of one man and one woman. And that’s why I will appoint an attorney general who will defend the bipartisan law passed by Congress and signed by Bill Clinton, the Defense of Marriage Act. […]

“Our values must also encompass the life of an unborn child…. I support the Hyde Amendment, which broadly bars the use of federal funds for abortions. As president, I’ll end federal funding for abortion advocates like Planned Parenthood. I’ll protect a health care worker’s right to follow their conscience in their work. And I will nominate judges who know the difference between personal opinion and law. It is long past time for the Supreme Court to return the issue of abortion back to the states by overturning Roe v. Wade.”

I’ve heard from a few center-left voters in recent months who’ve suggested a Romney presidency may not be that offensive, since, once in office, he may turn out to govern closer to the way he did in his one term in Massachusetts.

Romney is making some fairly specific promises to some very conservative folks, suggesting he’ll be pretty far to the right in every key area of public policy.

Also note, it wasn’t just this one speech. A week earlier, Romney told Fox News he would, if elected, seek more federal abortion restrictions and said he would “absolutely” support state constitutional measures to define “life” as “beginning at conception.”

Obviously, this is wholly at odds with previous versions of Mitt Romney, but the most recent version is the one voters are going to have to consider. And this iteration would, according to his own rhetoric, push culture-war measures that are pretty offensive to much of the country.

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.