For several decades Senator John McCain was regarded as the Democrat's favorite Republican. He was widely praised for cooperating with the Democrats on bi-partisan legislation while in the Senate. He was not considered radical or extreme at all, except by libertarians who viewed him as extreme for having the flaws of both Democrats and Republicans in one person.
Then Senator McCain became the Republican presidential nominee. In the course of one month he was regularly regarded and depicted as a radical hard-core right-wing extremist. All of the people who had previous praised him as a model of what a Republican can be and should be forgot everything nice they had ever said about him.
Once the election was over, Senator McCain was "rehabilitated" and is again regarded as a positive example of a Republican. Once President Barack Obama started experiencing problems during his administration it became important to portray Obama has having defeated a much more moderate Republican in order to show he had wider support when he had run.
There is no question about Governor Mitt Romney's conservative credentials. He is approximately as conservative as Senator McCain. It is Governor Romney who introduced Romneycare as the most glaring example among many of how his own beliefs are so far out of line with what Republicans allegedly believe (but quite in line with what they actually believe).
During the Republican presidential primary, it was widely regarded that the Tea Party constituency had no love for Governor Romney, preferring candidates such as Governor Rick Perry or Herman Cain. Now that the primary is essentially over, Governor Romney is being recast.
Looking at the preliminary Democratic campaign material in support of the reelection of President Obama, there is an attempt to associate Governor Romney with the Tea Party, portray him as an opponent of government-run health care, and strangely enough as radically different from President Obama.
The problem is, this rhetoric trying to portray Governor Romney as different from President Obama may work. With many of the United States electorate educated by government schools, and getting their news only from CNN or Fox, the facts matter less and less each year. And with the rhetoric from each side presenting the opponent as different in spite of the facts, this will become yet another in a long line of "most importation election ever" campaigns that will be used to argue that it is now too critical to vote third party.