Political Animal


November 10, 2011 2:25 PM Romney backed taxpayer-funded abortions

By Steve Benen

In theory, revelations like these would shake up the Republican presidential race, but that assumes Mitt Romney has competent primary rivals who actually want to win.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s past support for abortion rights and state-funded family planning, especially during his Senate run in 1994 against Ted Kennedy, is well known. But Romney’s support has lasted longer, and goes deeper, than many may assume.

During Romney’s 2002 gubernatorial campaign, he sought the endorsement of Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts by filling out a questionnaire that made his continued support clear. The document was first circulated in 2007, but is now taking on new relevance as Romney tries to clarify his opposition to abortion rights and government-funded family planning.

Romney pledged his support for Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that protects women’s choice, for laws protecting the safety of abortion clinics, for increased access to the morning-after pill and for late-term abortions when the mother’s health is at risk. Romney also indicated on the form that he supported the “state funding of abortion services through Medicaid for low-income women.”

At a certain level, this seems huge. Romney, in his only successful campaign for public office, put his commitment to reproductive rights in writing — not only endorsing protections for Roe, but also expressing support for using taxpayer money to pay for abortion services.

This is about the time we’d see every other Republican presidential campaign launch their rapid-response operations, raising hell with every political reporter they can find. We’d see press releases, web videos, the works.

But in 2011, that just never seems to happen.

I thought, for example, the GOP field would be apoplectic when we learned that Romney had promised center-left activists he would “act as essentially a sleeper agent within the Republican Party, adopting liberal stances, rising to national prominence, and thereby legitimizing them and transforming the Party from within.” But the other Republican campaigns let it slide.

I also thought the GOP field would go berserk when we learned that Romney’s health care program in Massachusetts uses taxpayer money to provide medical care to undocumented immigrants. But the other Republican campaigns let this slide, too.

I also thought the GOP field would pounce immediately on revelations that Romney’s policy team advised the Obama White House on how best to shape “Obamacare.” But, again, the other Republican campaigns said nothing.

I thought Romney would be slammed repeatedly for his support of health care mandates. And his support for gun control. And his record supporting gay rights. And his belief in climate change. And now his support for taxpayer-financed abortions. Sure, he’s flip-flopped on all of these issues and more, and has become something of a far-right extremist, but at one time, Romney was practically a liberal — a detail that might matter to some Republican primary voters.

And yet, with fewer than eight weeks to go before the Iowa caucuses, there are no attack ads targeting Romney airing anywhere in the country, and in last night’s debate, no one even tried to lay a glove on him.

It’s one thing to note how lucky Romney has been, but this is something else altogether. We’re talking about an entire GOP presidential field that practically seems willing to let Romney win.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • c u n d gulag on November 10, 2011 2:34 PM:

    Why aren't the rest of them fighting tooth and nail with Romney?

    It's almost as if the rest of the dogs and ponies in the show know which one of them has been chosen, and don't want to make Mitt look too bad.

    And are they holding out for VP or other positions if he runs and wins.

    And no chance any of these clowns will be VP. It'll be either Rubio or Ryan, is my guess.

  • Kenneth D. Franks on November 10, 2011 2:37 PM:

    Republicans are willing to nominate anyone that has a chance of winning against President Obama even if it is the former moderate/liberal Republican Mitt Romney. He will likely try to compensate by trying to get Chris Christie to be his running mate. htpp://kennethdfranks.blogspot.com/ or Goggle
    Red Dirt & Sand for more Texas/National Politics

  • Danp on November 10, 2011 2:54 PM:

    We’re talking about an entire GOP presidential field that practically seems willing to let Romney win.

    Which of these clowns actually wants to win the nomination? Let's be honest. Most of them just want to be Sarah Palin, doing book tours, lobbing bilous quips to adoring crowds, pundicizing on Fox, and seeing their kids dancing with the stars.

  • jjm on November 10, 2011 2:57 PM:

    The only thing Romney has going for him is that his LOOKS are deemed by the media as 'presidential': white male, dresses well, talks smoothly (if incoherently on the issues) and lies like a rug. Perfect qualifications for the GOP.

  • Texas Aggie on November 10, 2011 3:18 PM:

    Is the fix on? Polls show that the republican base would rather lose than abandon even the least of their principles, but maybe the same doesn't apply to the people running the campaign(s). Possibly we're still in the situation where the head of the GOOPers (Wall St.) runs the party and the body (TP's and christers) responds to manipulation.

  • zeitgeist on November 10, 2011 3:19 PM:

    at a smaller, less visible level some of those cards have been played. the problem is that Republicans are nothing if not able to create and believe in fantasy worlds. so when Mitt says "I just did that because I had to in Massachusetts; I didn't really mean it," they accept that and shrug and go on. To do otherwise would require thinking ill of their most likely nominee, which is too much cognitive dissonance to bear.

    a left-leaning non-profit (i.e. no need to disclose donors) should, once Mitt is virtually assured the nomination, take out ads publicizing several of these issues, the Planned Parenthood one in particular as a means of totally demoralizing and demotivating the far right activists who are critical for a Republican campaign.

  • The DeMBA on November 10, 2011 3:21 PM:

    Romney isn't so much the clear front runner as the clear back-up plan; much like the semi-attractive person you were friends with who might make acceptable marriage material if nothing better comes along before it's too late.

    You don't want to destroy the back-up plan.

    I do wonder how Republicans should change their process. Candidates like Cain, Gingrich, and Trump are clearly in it for the publicity, money and Fox News gigs, following Palin, Huckabee and Gingrich doing the same thing in the 2008 cycle.

    They're also vulnerable to fringe candidates like Bachman who can make a brief splash and suck the air out from better candidates despite having minimal hope of the nomination and even less of winning the presidency.

    In a way, the media hoopla and money infrastructure Republicans have created, which in theory could build a strong, visible farm team, has worked against them. Formerly viable candidates like Huckabee tried out the Republican safety net and found out it works pretty well as a hammock; unviable candidates get better press than realistic ones; and reasonable candidates who would have a better shot at winning are turned off and stay away.

  • John Dillinger on November 10, 2011 3:33 PM:

    It is not that they don't want to be the nominee, it is they know they have little shot. And as far as their alternative prospects, they know they aren't going to get a gig on Fox, or sell many books, if they've spent months trashing the man who could be the next Republican President. It is the code of their tribe.

  • chi res on November 10, 2011 3:50 PM:

    Another form Romney filled-out:

    X I will shoot my grandmother if it helps me get elected.

    __ I will not shoot my grandmother.

  • Gregory on November 10, 2011 3:56 PM:

    I think it's good if there's a perception among the Republican powers that be that most of the clown show fail parade that is the incipient Republican primary race is, however much it appeals to the 27% crazy base so-called "Tea Party" dead-enders, actually way outside the American political mainstream.

    These reservations, though, should make it harder for Romney to run to the middle. I just hope the Democrats don't expect the so-called "liberal media" to do the job for them.

  • Chris on November 10, 2011 4:01 PM:

    We’re talking about an entire GOP presidential field that practically seems willing to let Romney win.

    I think Steve nailed it here. These guys are looking for a wider audience for books and speeches. Save Huntsman, they're not that interested in winning. I suspect, that they know that what they're selling to Republican primary voters wouldn't fly in a general election and wouldn't work in practice.

  • Chris on November 10, 2011 4:04 PM:

    I'll add that the lack of scrutiny against Romney during the primaries could actually help Obama and Dems when such scrutiny is belatedly applied during the general.

  • Kiweagle on November 10, 2011 6:56 PM:

    Two points to make here:
    1. Remember McCain? He was a notorious flip-flopper too but that didn't stop him from becoming the Republican nominee for president even when he flipped to new opinions that proved demonstrably wrong and idiotic.
    2. Remember Guiliani? His record was not only utterly atrocious, but his one saving grace, 9/11, turned out to actually be an indictment of mismanagement that cost people their lives (motorola radios that didn't work, locating emergency center inside number one target of terrorists, etc.), but he was finally defeated once voters took the time to actually look past the facade he'd so successfully protected his record with.

    I'd like to believe the same thing that happened to Rudy would happen to Cain, Perry and Romney, but the GOP now knows that would leave no-one to run against Obama.

    I don't know what's more pathetic, the candidates themselves or the fact that Romney still ties/ beats Obama in polling today.

  • Sean Scallon on November 10, 2011 10:33 PM:

    "And yet, with fewer than eight weeks to go before the Iowa caucuses, there are no attack ads targeting Romney airing anywhere in the country, and in last night’s debate, no one even tried to lay a glove on him."

    They're fighting to become the candidate who gets to say all those things against Romney.