This is how Bonnie Erbe hears Mitt Romney on abortion:
"I was never really for it, but I pretended to be for it before I was against it"
I just don’t believe this guy:
|Before: Federalism||After: No Federalism|
NJ: You would favor a constitutional amendment banning abortion with exceptions for the life of the mother, rape and incest. Is that correct?
What I’ve indicated is that I am pro-life, and that my hope is that the Supreme Court will give to the states over time or give to the states soon or give to the states their own ability to make their own decisions with regard to their own abortion law.
I was at a family reunion this weekend. While the debate was showing, I was on the way to attend Stonewall Wesleyan Church in Lexington, KY, where my dad’s family attended church when he was growing up. I didn’t really see any news, other than the local paper, until I got to the airport and saw clips of Romney’s fight with an Iowa conservative talk radio host about abortion and his religion. I saw this on CNN. 3 or 4 times, and nothing about the debate.
Then I get home, turn on my computer and go to Romney’s materials on the debate. And the first thing that I see is a clip from the debate about Sam Brownback’s autodial calls against Romney. Romney’s response to this whole affair has moved this into the domain of earned media, multiplying the power of paid media.
So, entering the week of Ames Romney is talking about:
Is that the discussion that he wants?
Is Brownback trying to set up a frame of "you can’t trust anyone, so buy the real thing?" It will be very, very interesting to see what the post-Ames spin is.
Sam Brownback’s campaign has been making phone calls in Iowa with solid facts. He has been attacking Tom Tancredo:
Brownback’s campaign has been making phone calls in Iowa that criticize Tancredo for taking campaign money from a Planned Parenthood backer.
Tancredo says Brownback is a longtime friend who “is well aware of my lifelong commitment to the unborn.”
Tancredo’s campaign has accused Brownback of trying to divert attention away from illegal immigration.
This is something that Brownback had mentioned previously. The point of this is pretty clearly to make Tancredo unpalatable to Iowa caucus-goers and Ames-goers. Brownback is playing a dangerous game. On the one hand, all of his facts are totally solid. On the other hand, that may not be enough for politics.
He also hits at Mitt Romney:
“Mitt Romney is telling Iowans he is firmly pro-life. Nothing could be further from the truth,” said the Brownback campaign’s phone message.
The message goes on to attack the former Massachusetts governor’s wife, warning, “His wife, Ann, has contributed money to Planned Parenthood.”
Romney spokesman Tim Albrecht expressed outrage at what he called “despicable, negative phone calls.”
“They should apologize to Ann Romney and Governor Romney for this personal attack,” Albrecht said.
These seem to me to be aggressive but not wrong on the facts. In the past, Brownback has repeatedly beat up Romney on this issue. And I have been struck that in previous years Romney’s position(s) would be prima facia not pro-life. But these are funny times for the GOP.
Also, the real goal here is probably the earned media from Romney. I wonder if Tancredo voters are basically anti-immigration voters, and they aren’t moving…
Once you take John McCain off the table, as many do, the top-tier of the GOP is left with three candidates. Two of them gave money to Planned Parenthood and one lobbied for an abortion group. And none of them support the Human Life Amendment, which, in many states, is the test for a Right to Life endorsement in state races. That’s an indictment about something in the GOP, although, to be frank, I am not sure exactly what. I think that the main phenomenon is a disconnect between pro-life voters and groups and candidates.
Either our pool of candidates is not particularly pro-life and they simply wear it as a costume, or they do not believe that you can get elected with a strong pro-life position. In any case, that is something that GOP candidates and GOP activists need to think deeply about. In many ways, I agree William Saletan’s argument that the right has won the abortion wars in an incremental fashion. Slowly the ball has moved to the right. And this is not just legally, but also in people’s minds. But the question for the pro-life movement is: where next? If they can’t keep their candidates in line, what can they do? This move has depended on a public debate on their terms. (meaning debating partial birth abortion and parental notification versus criminalization)
Last week, after a bunch of people left the McCain campaign, I got several calls from friends working for candidates in the 2nd tier. And they were despondent. They are strong, strong, strong pro-lifers, as are their candidates. They know that it would take a near miracle for their candidates to win the nomination, much less the White House. But they are in the fight for what they believe. And they always assumed that the GOP wouldn’t abandon them on this issue. What has sunk in with my friends is that, with the exit of John McCain, the GOP has lost their only first-tier unambiguous, if unenthusiastic, pro-lifer.
Now they aren’t so sure. And they aren’t so sure where this takes the party. For pro-lifers, there is no deeper issue than this one. But there is another perspective worth considering.
Pro-lifers form, in many cases, the core of the GOP volunteer base. It is not an accident that social moderates have fewer volunteers. And when the RNC ships people around prior to elections, social moderates are sent staffers, and social conservatives are sent pro-lifers, often in the form of home schoolers. Are pro-lifers going to turn out in the same way? Who will be the new volunteer base for the GOP? After all, the GOP turnout operation is, basically, a mechanical process that turns volunteer hours into votes. But without the volunteer hours, it is basically impossible to drive out those unreliable conservative voters.
In other words, the loss of strong pro-life voices could lead to a short-term losses for the GOP due to difficulties in turning out the unreliable parts of the base. I say short term because there would be some corrective over time and we would either find new volunteers or revert. But ….
And this is saying nothing of the swing voters. There are plenty of swing voters for whom abortion is what brings them into the GOP. (there are also swing voters for whom abortion drives people out)
Now one could argue that someone with strong appeal to moderates could change this dynamic by increasing moderate turnout. And, in many cases that is a real possibility. Arnold Schwarzenegger in California is a successful case-in-point. But that wasn’t even a close election. And 2008 is going to be a close election, no question about it. One might argue that Hillary Clinton will drive up GOP volunteer activity. I think there is something to that, but there are plenty of people in the GOP base who will not vote for a thrice-married, basically lapsed Catholic or a Mormon. I meet more every day.
Where do we go? Parties are coalitions. And an essential part of our coalition has been social conservatives and pro-lifers in the phone banks. Where do we go if these are our candidates?
Don’t let your candidate do non-softball interviews:
In his speech to the Right to Life Convention, Mitt Romney had one whopper of a paragraph:
"Recently, I was attacked by one of my opponents because when I ran for Governor I promised to maintain the status quo with regards to laws relating to abortion in Massachusetts. Of course, I kept that promise. But in Massachusetts, that meant vetoing pro-choice legislation – as I consistently did as Governor. That’s why last month I was honored with an award from Massachusetts Citizens for Life in recognition of the actions I took as Governor to protect life.
Let’s take this sentence by sentence, because there are so many misleading statements in here it boggles the mind:
Recently, I was attacked by one of my opponents because when I ran for Governor I promised to maintain the status quo with regards to laws relating to abortion in Massachusetts. Of course, I kept that promise.
Several problems with this. First of all, there are the examples of Romney not keeping that promise:
This invokes another promise that Romney made:
Romney said he had vetoed the emergency contraception bill to fulfill his 2002 campaign promise not to change state abortion laws.
But supporters of the measure, pointing out that Romney has also pledged to support expanded access to emergency contraception, accused the GOP governor of trying to burnish his conservative credentials for a possible presidential run.
I guess that Romney could argue that it was consistent to force Catholic hospitals to pass out emergency contraception while vetoing bills that would increase emergency contraception. But I don’t think that pro-life voters will see it that way.
But in Massachusetts, that meant vetoing pro-choice legislation – as I consistently did as Governor.
Romney made it very clear in 2002 that his position was pro-choice. Returning to Romney’s 2002 debate, he said:
Now, his opponent to whom he is referring was endorsed by NARAL and Planned Parenthood. Romney was endorsed by the Republican Majority for Choice. Romney denied in the same debate that he had accepted the endorsement of the Massachusetts Citizens for Life in 1994. Romney made it very clear that his promise was not to veto pro-choice legislation. And just to make clear, Romney said that the only difference between him and the NARAL-endorsed, Planned Parenthood-endorsed Shannon O’Brien was age of consent. It is simply not politically honest of him to say that his promise was to veto pro-choice legislation.
Regarding the consistent vetoes, see the comments on the previous sentence.
That’s why last month I was honored with an award from Massachusetts Citizens for Life in recognition of the actions I took as Governor to protect life.
So the award has nothing to do with Romney giving the group $15,000? Or the installation of Romney’s wife, who had previously defended his pro-choice stance and donated to Planned Parenthood, as co-chairman of the capital campaign, over the objections of pro-life activists? I guess that Romney doesn’t see a difference between bribery and honesty.
DES MOINES – Although Mitt Romney signed legislation expanding taxpayer-funded abortions in Massachusetts, his campaign said Thursday that Romney is proud of his actions as governor pertaining to abortion.
As governor, Romney signed "Commonwealth Care" into law, legislation that forced taxpayers to pay for abortions and mandated that a member of the legislation’s policy board be appointed by Planned Parenthood.
Prominent pro-lifers have repeatedly asked Romney to call for the repeal of the legislation, to which Romney has refused.
"It is time, once and for all, for Mitt Romney to publicly support or condemn the legislation he signed expanding taxpayer-funded abortions in Massachusetts," said John Rankin, Iowa communications director of Brownback for President.
Yesterday, ABC News revealed startling new revelations in a story headlined, "Romney’s Pro-Life Conversion: Myth or Reality? After ‘Epiphany’ on Abortion, He Named a Pro-Choice Judge and Supported Stem-Cell Research." Story available at: http://www.abcnews.go.com
Rankin added: "John Kennedy once said: ‘The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.’ Mitt Romney’s persistence that he was a pro-life governor is truly unrealistic and is certainly a myth."
In light of the Kansas City National Right to Life convention, Sam Brownback has dropped the hammer on Mitt Romney. It is a fun read, but Brownback’s politcal director has a fun line:
“One would think that Mitt Romney is in training for an Olympic gold medal in verbal gymnastics, as his various political contortions on abortion are stunning in their timing and flexibility,” Gillespie added. "The best advice for Mitt Romney comes from Mark Twain: ‘Always tell the truth. That way, you don’t have to remember what you said.’”
Full text, including a great timeline of Romney’s multiple positions on abortion, after the jump
Patrick Ruffini argues that it doesn’t make sense for John McCain to be attacking Mitt Romney. His argument boils down to the fact that if the punch lands, it still leaves Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson standing and, probably, helps them.
But there are a lot of strategic and tactical things going on here. First of all, tomorrow Romney speaks to the National Right to Life Convention in St. Louis. According to the AP:
The only major contender with confirmed plans to attend was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who’s facing questions about what an aide called Romney’s conversion to the anti-abortion cause several years ago. Also expected to participate was Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, a strong abortion opponent.
I think that the McCain team is trying to frame what happens at this convention. The people at this convention are likely to determine who, if anyone, NRLC endorses for President. That is why so much anti-Thompson oppo is falling, probably from the Romney campaign. And that is why McCain is dropping it on Romney. And that is why Romney is frantically responding with press release after press release. If RTL were to come out against Romney and do what they did to McCain and 2000, it would be brutal. It would seal Romney as a the country club candidate, which he really is.
So let’s make this clear. Romney is vulnerable on abortion. And McCain and Brownback are interested in laying in the knife. And Romney is scrambling to respond. And in this moment, this issue matters a lot. In this moment, the tactics have huge strategic consequences.
The last big pro-life event, the March for Life, was basically a Romney-Brownback brawl. Anything that helps Brownback in that fight keeps that fight alive on the right. And, remember something, McCain is the only of the big-4 candidates who supports the Human Life Amendment, which used to be the big pro-life litmus test. McCain probably doesn’t win with a highly satisfied pro-life community in this race because it probably isn’t him. But with an unsatisfied one, he has a chance of drawing some contrasts, picking up some votes, and the votes that he isn’t getting aren’t going to just one candidate.
Now Patrick has another argument about the long-term problems of picking on Romney. I am still thinking about those. But what is going on this week is not about long-term. It is about the next 2 days in Kansas City.