Stab in the Back From Mitt Romney

I suspect we’ll soon hear some qualifications and back-filling on what exactly he meant (he actually tied himself in knots on the subject on the 2012 campaign trail) but at the moment, congressional Republicans can’t be too happy at this gratuitous comment from their most recent presidential nominee:

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on Thursday morning said he supports an increase in the minimum wage, breaking with many Republicans who have stood against it.

“I, for instance, as you know, part company with many of the conservatives in my party on the issue of the minimum wage. I think we ought to raise it,” the 2012 Republican presidential nominee said. “Because frankly, our party is all about more jobs and better pay.”

Romney’s comments come after Senate Republicans rejected a vote on a Senate bill that would have increased the minimum wage to $10.10. Recently, though, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, both of whom also ran for the Republican nomination in 2012, said they supported some increase in the minimum wage.

Truth is, Republican differences of opinion on the minimum wage reflect long-standing divisions on the Right over the very propriety of regulating wage rates, with one longstanding conservative argument being that lowering or perhaps even abolishing minimum wages altogether would be a boon to minority employment. But given the vast unpopularity of that view, and the vast popularity at present of proposals to boost the minimum wage, it’s important to Republicans to avoid direct questions on the topic and instead insert poison pill demands into minimum wage legislation. More than a few will devoutly curse Romney over their breakfast tables for refusing to just go away.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.