Romney Rivals Key on Abortion as His Achilles' Heel

Saturday, 25 Jun 2011 09:56 AM

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Some of the Republican presidential candidates trying to topple former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney from the top of the pile are using the abortion issue as his Achilles’ heel.

Mitt Romney, abortion, BachmannFront-runner Romney has a spotty history on the issue, having supported abortion rights when he ran for governor in 2002 and later changing his position, The New York Times observes. Conservatives kept that in mind when he tried to win the GOP nod for president in 2008.

Cue rival Michele Bachmann’s line during her address via Skype to the National Right to Life convention in Jacksonville, Fla., Friday: "This is not the time for the Republican Party to put up a candidate who is weak on the pro-life issue or has a history of flip-flopping over it."

OK, so the Minnesota congresswoman and founder of the House Tea Party caucus didn’t name names, but it’s not hard to read between the tea leaves. And, after all, four other candidates — Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, and Rick Santorum — also addressed the convention in person or via Skype, all proclaiming that life begins at conception.

The issue arose last week as a tempest built over Romney’s refusal to sign the Susan B. Anthony List’s sweeping anti-abortion pledge.

For example, Santorum said he was “stunned” that Romney hadn’t signed the pledge, as he and Bachmann had, as had Newt Gingrich, Paul, and Pawlenty.

Romney’s campaign seems to be built on voters’ concerns about the economy, and Romney’s campaign believes that his “résumé as a business executive will trump concern over his credentials as a social conservative,” the Times reports.

As if acknowledging that element, Bachmann told the Right to Life convention, "There are indeed major problems in our country, that goes without saying. The importance of these issues does not for a moment mean the life issues should take a back seat."

A Romney spokesman declined to comment to the Times, indicating that the dispute was a minor one that the media already have exhausted.

However, some political analysts told the Times that Romney’s abortion record could drive away evangelical Christians who are skeptical about his Mormon faith.

Ted G. Jelen, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who has written about abortion politics, told the Times: “It’s something to hang your hat on: ‘How do I oppose a Mormon without seeming to be a bigot?’ Well, he’s not solid on abortion.”

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