If you’ve been following the debate in the Senate over the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, you know that Republicans are complaining that they don’t want the act to expire, but object to “poison pills” Democrats have added to the bill, particularly protections against domestic violence for undocumented women and for people in same-sex relationships.

But they are not handling the messaging of their position very well, and have retreated from their original filibuster threats (pretty standard now with respect to every piece of legislation they oppose), and apparently hope the bill is enacted without their votes but also without much publicity.

This GOP exercise in damage control, however, may not be enough to spare their presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, for whom the VAWA issue is becoming another in a long series of examples of his weaselly refusal to take a distinct position. He’s sort of for VAWA reneweal, but doesn’t think it should become a “political football,” and won’t say what version he’d support.

At Maddow Blog, Brother Benen really brings down the hammer:

This happens quite a bit, doesn’t it? Romney has opinions about gay rights, but he’s afraid to state his position on North Carolina’s anti-gay ballot measure, even when he’s in North Carolina. He has opinions about civility and the public discourse, but he lacks the courage to criticize Rush Limbaugh or Ted Nugent. Romney has opinions on abortion rights, but he was afraid to say what he thought about the “personhood” amendment in Mississippi earlier this year. He has opinions about immigration policy, but he lacks the courage to explain in detail how he’d handle undocumented immigrants who are already living in the United States. He has opinions about the budget, but he’s afraid to go into detail to explain how he’d pay for his agenda.

And now Romney supports a Violence Against Women Act, but he won’t say whether he backs the Violence Against Women Act.

The American electorate can tolerate quite a bit, but no one respects a coward.

That is true. So maybe reporters navigating the Romney campaign’s evasions should try a different tack, asking exactly how much violence against women the candidate and his party are willing to accept? Maybe that will flush them out, and produce some straight answers.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.