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Right Turn
Posted at 06:06 PM ET, 02/07/2012

Santorum vs. Romney on contraception: Round 2

A spokesman for Rick Santorum has responded to the objections of Mitt Romney’s camp to its attack on Romney’s record on contraception while he was governor of Massachusetts.

In an op-ed for Politico, Santorum stated, “In December 2005, Governor Mitt Romney required all Massachusetts hospitals, including Catholic ones, to provide emergency contraception to rape victims.” The op-ed neglects to mention that Romney vetoed the mandate, a veto that was overridden by the legislature.

Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley Jr. makes more specific — and I think more defensible — points than his boss did.

First, he contends, “The fact is, Gov. Romney missed a key opportunity and failed to offer real substantive pro-life leadership and reverse abortion mandates in the healthcare law. Instead, RomneyCare covers abortions and requires coverage of contraception such as sterilization or the morning-after pill.”

The abortion issue is distinct, however, from Santorum’s original op-ed. Gidley says, “While negotiating the bill, Gov. Romney could have made those issues ‘non-negotiables’ but he didn’t.”

Romney has defended himself by saying that he did everything possible under Massachusetts’s laws and constitution to avoid subsidizing abortion. Santorum seems to think there was more that could be done, but it’s not clear how Romney was going to overcome the state constitution and the Democratic legislature on this point.

On the issue of contraception, Gidley argues, “Even many Massachusetts Catholics said they felt like Romney didn’t fight hard enough for their freedom of conscience, noting that it didn’t help that Gov. Romney stated that he really believed rape victims were entitled to the emergency contraception.”

We don’t have data on how Catholics reacted to this but this objection to Romney’s record, as I pointed out earlier, is closer to the factual record (i.e., Romney followed his lawyers’ advice in accepting that a new law superseded an old law that carved out Catholic hospitals from the mandate).

Gidley ends with his argument for Santourm’s candidacy: “Rick Santorum is the only conservative candidate who is positioned to defeat Obama because he can credibly and effectively attack the President for supporting big government healthcare mandates, government bailouts, and radical cap and trade initiatives. Mitt Romney can’t attack Obama on any of those major issues because Gov. Romney agrees with Obama on all of them.” Well, that’s not accurate, for example, since Romney wants to repeal Obamacare and didn’t favor Obama’s cap-and-trade bill. But that’s the normal sort of spin both sides engage in.

This is a good example of the greater attention to detail that Santorum will have to pay if he’s going to withstand the bright light of scrutiny. Had he phrased his op-ed in terms more akin to Gidley’s, it would not have been so easy for the Romney camp to push back. Moreover, why get tangled in the weeds on this? And if he’s going to play the “Romney is lying about my record” card, he better be darn sure his own claims are defensible. Santorum has a case to be made, he just needs to stick to the facts and be able to defend his own language.

Right Turn will be back tonight with coverage of the Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado contests and the candidates’ speeches.

By  |  06:06 PM ET, 02/07/2012

Categories:  2012 campaign, Culture

 
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