“I agree with Governor Romney on many things, for instance abortion. He was pro-choice most of his adult life, so was I. But he changed his position when he became presidential candidate Romney. Now, let’s take guns. Governor Romney and I, we were in complete agreement on gun control — now that is, until he changed his mind. And on health care, well, I was so inspired by Romneycare that I nationalized it and called it Obamacare. Now presidential candidate Romney is against the individual mandate and universal health care.”
— Remarks by a cartoon President Obama during a fictionalized debate with Mitt Romney, depicted in an ad from the pro-Newt Gingrich Super PAC Winning Our Future.
Gingrich describes himself as the only viable candidate left in the GOP race, and this innovative cartoon ad — the first of its kind that we’ve seen — feeds into that narrative, attacking one of Romney’s perceived strengths: his supposed ability to challenge Obama.
The Post’s Fix reports that this video is the first in a three-part series envisioning potential debates between Romney and the sitting president. It illustrates an increasingly negative strategy by Gingrich and his supporters since the candidate’s lackluster finishes in the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries. The approach appears to be working, with a new CNN poll showing Romney losing ground in South Carolina — an equally likely explanation is that the other candidates are resonating with Palmetto State voters.
Gingrich has brought down the house in recent debates, but Romney has proven himself a formidable candidate at the podium, remaining poised and mostly gaffe-free in this election. He’s also faced lots of flip-flop accusations, responding with far more than the “hold on” and “whoa, whoa” that his flustered cartoon character managed.
Still, the general election could be a totally different ballgame, and one in which the debates won’t feature such party friendly crowds. We examined Romney’s record to determine whether the president would have the type of ammunition that this super PAC suggests. Did the animated Obama get it right? Is Gingrich really so different from the GOP front-runner?
We also wondered why Winning Our Future used the cartoon format. It obviously gives the super PAC control over what happens in the debate. But some of these claims have run into trouble on the fact check circuit. Was the group trying to protect itself by putting the words into Obama’s animated mouth?
Animated Obama claims his opponent was a pro-choice governor, which is fairly accurate. An old Fact Checker column chronicles Romney’s flip-flops on the issue, noting that he acknowledged being “effectively pro-choice” before becoming “firmly pro-life.”
Romney suggested while running for governor of the liberal Bay State that his policies would be pro-choice — although he said he was personally opposed to abortion.
In 2005, Romney signed a bill asking the federal government for a waiver to expand family planning services in Massachusetts. That same year, the former governor vetoed legislation to ensure emergency contraception known as the “morning after pill” for rape victims. He later reversed that decision despite protests from Catholic hospitals that didn’t want to administer the drug.
The Boston Globe reported just before Romney launched his 2002 gubernatorial campaign that the candidate had endorsed legalization of RU-486, a pill that induces abortion. That’s the only reference — and a fleeting one at that — to any support for the abortion drug. Romney never signed legislation relating to it.
The former governor declared himself pro-life in 2007, the same year he decided to run for president.
In terms of gun control, Romney has changed his stance on that issue as well, as our colleagues at FactCheck.org reported. The GOP front-runner supported a ban on assault weapons during his 1994 Senate run, and he signed a bill in 2004 that extended the Massachusetts ban, saying the weapons are “instruments of destruction.”
During his 2008 presidential run, Romney said he would have signed a 2004 bill to extend the old federal assault weapons ban, but he insisted that no new restrictions were necessary. Obama has advocated for additional “common sense” gun control laws as late as 2008.
Most importantly, the president went far beyond Romney’s stance by indicating in a 1996 questionnaire that he would support a total ban on the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns. Obama claimed he never personally provided that answer, but Politico proved otherwise.
As for health care reform, the Massachusetts and national plans show some strong similarities. For instance, both include individual mandates, both place more responsibility on employers to provide coverage or face penalties, both involve insurance exchanges, both provide subsidies for lower-income individuals, and both place new regulations on the insurance market.
Still, as we pointed out in a past column, Romney has long said he did not view his Massachusetts plan as a model for the nation, and he has not wavered on that stance, despite some faulty accusations by opponents who say he changed the wording in one of his books to cover up a flip-flop.
It’s worth noting that Gingrich has shown some flip-flopping tendencies of his own on the issue of health care himself, advocating for the individual mandate until Obama adopted the concept for his national reform law.
Winning Our Future declined to answer questions about its new cartoon ad.
The Pinocchio Test
Animated Obama rightly suggests that Romney changed his rhetoric about abortion and his stance on gun control after setting his sights on the presidency. But he’s wrong that he and the GOP candidate were “in complete agreement on gun control.” The president took a much harder stance against handguns than Romney ever did.
As for health care, the federal reform law looks a lot like the one in Massachusetts, but Romney never supported pushing his plan on the entire nation. The ad doesn’t acknowledge that fact.
On balance, Winning Our Future and the cartoon Obama earn one Pinocchio, even if they win big points for an innovative ad.
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