It is now a standard belief among Republican presidential candidates, including Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, that the Affordable Care Act needs to be repealed. Not some of the health care law, or even most of the law, but every word of every page needs to be scrapped. To call for anything less is to risk a backlash from the GOP base.

But it’s fun to look back to when these candidates felt differently. Igor Volsky has this gem this afternoon.

…Romney hasn’t always supported eliminating the law in its entirety. For instance, as this video uncovered by Andrew Kaczynski demonstrates, in April 2010 Romney was still carefully contrasting Obamacare with the state reform he signed into law as governor of Massachusetts and promised to maintain some of its provisions. “Some similarities, some differences, and I hope we’re ultimately able to eliminate some of the differences, repeal the bad, and keep the good,” Romney said.

It was around the same time that Romney conceded the individual mandate should remain in place for the benefit of Americans with pre-existing conditions.

Similar, Lee Fang reported the other day on Gingrich having a similar perspective.

What hasn’t been reported yet are two conference calls in June and December 2010 in which Gingrich and his for-profit Center for Health Transformation touted “the good parts” of Obama’s plan and offered advice about how clients might take advantage of a myriad of provisions of the Affordable Care Act. […]

“There are clearly things that we’d like to see continued and we’d like to see legislation passed almost concurrently that will sustain the good parts,” said Gingrich, explaining what would happen if the bill were to be repealed.

At a certain level, none of this should come as a surprise. The Affordable Care Act is a historic breakthrough for progressive goals and priorities, but it’s also a fairly moderate piece of legislation, incorporating ideas that have enjoyed support from both parties for many years. It stands to reason that any leading Republican official who’s serious about health care policy would look at its provisions and find plenty of measures he/she would want to keep in place.

For that matter, there’s an obvious political benefit, too — the Affordable Care Act isn’t popular, but it’s component parts enjoy significant national support. When Romney and Gingrich talked about the “parts” that they were inclined to keep, they were very likely referring to policies that the vast majority of Americans support enthusiastically.

Also note, we’re not talking about ancient history here, rolling out quotes from the mid-1990s. Romney and Gingrich thought the ACA had plenty of redeeming qualities in 2010 — for the calendar impaired, that was last year.

The question for the GOP presidential candidates, then, is why provisions of the health care law earned their support in 2010, but have been deemed wholly unacceptable in 2011.

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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.