Drawing an implicit contrast with his more outspoken opponents, Mitt Romney said he wouldn't let the need to grab headlines tempt him into rhetorical hyperbole.
"We've seen throughout the campaign if you're willing to say really outrageous things that are accusative, attacking of President Obama, that you're going to jump up in the polls," Romney said Tuesday. "I'm not willing to light my hair on fire to try and get support. I am who I am."
"I'm not willing to say anything to get that nod," he said.
Although Romney was referring to the provocative comments that have helped his rivals — most notably Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum — attract attention, he used the same phrase that Democrats have lobbed against him to accuse him of triangulating his political positions and changing his mind to suit the electorate. The Democratic National Committee has launched a "Say Anything" campaign, playing on the title of the 1980s film, to dub Romney as an opportunist.
But Romney's attention was focused on the Republican primary, which he said was threatened by Democrats interfering with the process. Michigan's primary system allows voters to pull a ballot for either party, leading some Democratic activists to urge their supporters to vote in the GOP primary for Santorum as a foil for Romney, whom they see as a bigger threat to Obama.
"Republicans have to recognize there's a real effort to kidnap our primary process," Romney said.
Polling shows an intensely close race in Michigan between Santorum and Romney, whose stakes are sky high in the state where he grew up and his father served as governor. But in the weeks heading into Tuesday's primary, Romney unintentionally gave new fodder to those who claim he's out of touch with working-class Americans by referring to his NASCAR team-owner friends and his wife's multiple Cadillacs.
Asked Tuesday whether he realized that comments about his own wealth hurt his campaign, Romney responded with a single word before moving on to the next question: "Yes."