President Obama had the 1996 Outlines survey, where, as a state Senate candidate, he had supported "same-sex marriages" but the White House was unwilling to discuss for the longest time. Now, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) has found a Republican primary version of that: a flier that BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski reported was distributed by Romney's 2002 gubernatorial campaign that stated Romney "All citizens deserve equal rights, regardless of their sexual preference" and from which that the 2012 Romney presidential campaign is distancing itself.
As Romney never has supported marriage equality, that caveat likely would have been understood by voters at the time, and the underlying principle is not that different from his statement in the Meet the Press/Facebook debate this past weekend, "I don't discriminate. ... I made it very clear that in my view we should not discriminate in hiring policies, in legal policies," noting again his opposition to marriage equality.
He then added, "But, if people are looking for someone who will discriminate against gays, or will in any way try and suggest that people that have a different sexual orientation don't have full rights in this country, they won't find that in me."
Yet, The Huffington Post's Sam Stein reports that the Romney campaign's chief spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, said the fliers weren't official campaign literature -- despite their "Paid for by the Romney for Governor Committee" tagline.
"I don't know where those pink flyers came from. I was the communications director on the 2002 campaign. I don't know who distributed them ... I never saw them and I was the communications director," Fehrnstrom said in the spin room after Sunday morning's GOP presidential debate here.
Fehrnstrom said he had no idea who had distributed the flyers. "I never saw them and I never approved them. I'm not quite sure where they came from."
The Obama campaign quickly pointed out the discrepancy, with campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt saying in a statement:
"After Mitt Romney claimed he'd be a stronger advocate for gay rights than Senator Kennedy when he was running for office in Massachusetts, and one day after saying that gays should have 'full rights,' Romney's campaign today disavowed a flyer that simply said 'all citizens deserve equal rights, regardless of their sexual preference.' What on that flyer does Mitt Romney disagree with? Does he not believe all Americans should have equal rights? Who is he trying to pander to now? This is why Americans will have trouble trusting Mitt Romney -- he doesn't keep his word."
[Images: New Hampshire primary field by Aram Vartian. Flier posted by BuzzFeed.]