Romney's pledge is to cut tax rates across the board by 20 percent and recover the lost revenue by closing unnamed credits and deductions for high income earners. The net effect, he says, would be to lower the burden on the middle class and keep effective taxes constant on the rich without increasing the deficit -- goals that nonpartisan experts deem mathematically infeasible.
In February, during a GOP primary debate, Romney said, "We're going to cut taxes on everyone across the country by 20 percent, including the top 1 percent."
On Wednesday, facing down President Obama, he insisted, "I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans."
Gingrich said Romney's inconsistency was "good politics" but violates a conservative belief. "What he said is something that, frankly, true supply-siders don't necessarily love, but it's good politics -- he said, 'I will close enough deductions that wealthy Americans will not get a net tax cut,'" the former House speaker said. (Video below via Think Progress.)
The former governor's shift came amid a concerted effort by the Obama campaign to paint him as someone who would help the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. It's one of several examples from Wednesday night's debate in which Romney painted himself as a friend to working Americans. Conservatives had been initially hypercritical of Romney's pivots to the left -- particularly when it comes to 'Romneycare' -- but in recent weeks, amid troubles for his campaign, have refrained from criticizing his pivots on taxes and health care.
That gives Romney's surrogates more operating room to make a case for their candidate.
"First of all, Governor Romney made it clear in the debate," said Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) on Fox News Sunday, "that he is not going to lower the burden on upper income individuals. We all know, Chris, that upper income individuals rely more heavily on deductions."
Ayotte defended Romney's refusal to identify any tax credits or deductions he would eliminate, arguing that he would sort that out with Congress after he's elected.