Conservative columnist George Will recently slammed Mitt Romney as “a recidivist reviser of his principles,” who seems to “lack the courage of his absence of convictions.”

Today, we have yet another perfect example of the Republican frontrunner’s problem.

Romney recently told Fox News he, as governor, would have “absolutely” backed an amendment similar to the “personhood” amendment on the ballot in Mississippi this week. Since the measure would have banned abortions, birth control, in-vitro fertilization, stem-cell research, and treatment of ectopic pregnancies, Romney’s position raised a few eyebrows.

He did not, however, explicitly endorse the Mississippi measure. In fact, Romney, whose cowardice is becoming increasingly obvious, refused to take a stand on the ballot question, even when reporters pressed his campaign for his position. One prominent supporter of the measure recently complained, “We always seem to get two stories from Romney.”

Yesterday, voters in Mississippi rejected the “personhood” amendment — and wouldn’t you know it, Romney has suddenly decided he’s willing to distance himself from it.

Mitt Romney’s campaign, seeking to nip a potent general election attack in the bud, says he’s being falsely characterized as supporting a proposed amendment to define a fertilized egg as a “person” that was badly defeated in Mississippi yesterday. […]

Romney’s current position? He supports, per spokeswoman Gail Gitcho, “a Human Life Amendment that overturns Roe vs. Wade and sends the issue back to the states” — which sounds like something short of a federal abortion ban.

Romney’s campaign refused to take a position on the Mississippi question as recently as Monday. But once voters rejected it, now he’s free to clarify his position on the radical plan.

If it seems like this keeps coming up with the former governor, it’s not your imagination. Romney refused to take a stand on Paul Ryan’s budget. Romney refused to take a stand when asked about voters booing a U.S. soldier serving in Iraq during a Republican debate. Romney refused to take a stand when Rick Perry dabbled in Birtherism. Romney initially refused to take a stand on Ohio’s campaign to undermine collective-bargaining rights, and then sheepishly backpedaled when the right complained.

There’s going to come a point next year when the Obama campaign is likely to say, “Mitt Romney lacks the courage and the character to be a leader.” And the criticism will sting because it’s based in fact.

Either Romney has the guts to lead or he doesn’t, and waiting to take a position on an issue until after the fight is over is evidence of a politician who simply lacks courage.

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.