Phil, I think these things work as part of a theme. I suspect the reason that the Rudy folks went on offense with the flip flop label is because it fit so well into an already established theme that voters have heard time and time again and which other candidates like Huckabee are amplifying. As for immigration, voters were enraged at McCain because he was CURRENTLY championing a bill they detested (which Rudy opposed in large part on national security grounds). So I think the McCain-ization only works if a candidate is currently pushing an amnesty position. If Romney is trying to McCainize Rudy for past positions on illegal immigration it’s an uphill fight at best, in part because of the reason you outlined and in part because Rudy uses the exact same defense which Romney did in the recent immigration fight against McCain — look where I am now and what my position is currently. Well, maybe he will paint Rudy as a flip flopper, some say, not resolute enough on immigration. This is where the “it has to be part of a theme” comes in. After sticking to his guns more or less on abortion and with his general image of resolution I doubt the public will buy Rudy as a flip flopper. In short, I agree this is not a winning argument for Romney, but it also may be the only one he can presently think of to get to the “right” of Rudy given Rudy’s health care (more “conservative” I think than Romney Care) and other policy positions which are equally conservative as his and the difficulty Romney has in raising the abortion issue himself (probably not an issue he wants to go on offense with right now).
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