If you want to gauge how effective a popular movement has become, compare the present statements of leading politicians with their prior positions. In the case of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (R), the difference is night and day.

During an appearance in Florida last week, Romney was calling the "Occupy Wall Street" protests "dangerous" and "class warfare."

Since then, a poll surfaced showing that most Americans who've heard of the protests have sympathy for the demonstrators' motivations, and that "Occupy Wall Street" is much more popular than Congress.

That may have been on Romney's mind yesterday during an appearance in New Hampshire, where he told an audience, "I worry about the 99 percent in America."

"The 99 percent" is the slogan adopted by "Occupy Wall Street" protesters, who use the term to draw contrast between the wealthiest Americans and the poor and working classes.

"I don’t worry about the top one percent," Romney told the crowd on Monday. "I don’t stay up nights worrying about ‘gee we need to help them.’ I don’t worry about that. They’re doing just fine by themselves. I worry about the 99 percent in America. I want America, once again, to be the best place in the world to be middle-class. I want to have a strong and vibrant and prosperous middle-class. And so I look at what’s happening on Wall Street and my own view is, boy I understand how those people feel... The people in this country are upset."

The position is in stark contrast to his actual policy positions, namely Romney's refusal to even consider normalizing tax rates between the wealthy and middle classes. Wealthy Americans tend to pay a much smaller percentage of their income in federal taxes than middle class earners, and the vast majority of Americans -- including a majority of Republicans -- support raising their tax rates to help eliminate the deficit.

Romney, however, has proposed $6.6 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, along with a major cut to corporate taxes and the elimination of the estate tax on vast inheritance wealth. He's also come out in favor of a constitutional amendment to balance the U.S. budget, which would be impossible with such tremendous losses in federal revenue -- unless the government were to utterly destroy Social Security and Medicare, a move the huge majority of Americans oppose.

He's also been criticized for calling corporations "people," and saying that the protesters on Wall Street are just "trying to find scapegoats to attack."

A Gallup poll released Monday showed that Romney leads the field of Republican presidential hopefuls, with 20 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents saying they backed him to take on President Barack Obama in the November 2012 elections. The poll also found an unusually large segment of Republican voters -- 20 percent -- still undecided, the latest sign of party unhappiness with the contenders to be the party's standard-bearer in 13 months.

The video below is from C-SPAN, broadcast Monday, Oct. 10, 2011, snipped courtesy of Think Progress.

With AFP.