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The onetime defender of abortion rights now believes the U.S. Supreme Court should reverse Roe v. Wade and return the issue to the states to decide on the legality.

The Senate candidate who said in 1994 he did not “line up” with the National Rifle Association signed up for a lifetime membership in the group 12 years later, as he was considering his first presidential run.

The gubernatorial candidate who said in 2002 that he opposed tax increases but would not sign a no-tax pledge signed one when running for president five years later, boasting about it and criticizing his rivals for not doing so.

To Mr. Romney, these shifts were a natural evolution. To critics, they were political expediency to fit an increasingly conservative GOP.

But Mr. Romney has a pragmatic response for those who question his changes over time:

“I’m as consistent,” he told a New Hampshire editorial board, “as human beings can be.”