“There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda,” Romney told the paper’s editorial board. “One thing I would change however which would be done by executive order and not by legislation is that I would reinstate the Mexico City policy which is that foreign aid dollars from the United States would not be used to carry out abortion in other countries.”
Later, Romney, who spent the day in Ohio, appeared to back away from his remarks, saying: “I think I’ve said time and again that I’m a pro-life candidate and I’ll be a pro-life president.”
Romney’s comments come as the race for the White House tightens and as both candidates look to ensure base turnout in key swing states, such as Iowa, yet also look for ways to appeal to undecided, more centrist voters in states such as Ohio and Virginia.
During and after the debate last week, Romney has shifted and softened his earlier statements on several issues in moves apparently aimed at the center. In addition to Tuesday night’s comments on abortion, Romney has recently changed his tone and message on immigration, saying that he would not revoke the status of young illegal immigrants granted a two year deportation reprieve under an Obama order, yet still would end the program.
He also backed completely away from earlier comments captured in an undercover video that 47 percent of Americans were government freeloaders.
A Pew poll shows that Romney has gained significant ground among women voters since the debate, making up an 18-point deficit and now drawing even with Obama.
And as much as Romney needs to perform well among women, he also needs to perform well among social conservatives in states like Iowa, if he is to reach the 270 electoral votes needed to capture the White House.
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Marist Poll showed Obama with an eight point edge, 50 percent to 42 percent, among likely Iowa voters. But the Sept. 20 poll was taken before Romney’s dominant performance in the first debate.
In 2008, Obama won Iowa by eight points. Bush won the state in 2004, by about 13,000 votes. Social conservatives are hugely important to Romney’s chances in Iowa and with his recent statements on abortion he is highlighting a long-standing rift that has yet to be fully repaired according to some conservatives.
“I’m running out of fingers and toes to count the number of positions he has taken on abortion,” said Steve Deace, a conservative radio host in Iowa. “This is someone who does not have a deep or abiding position on this issue either way, and I think what it does is it puts pro-life leadership in America in a difficult position. I don’t know anybody in the pro-family movement who is not for sale who trusts him. People want to know who the person is that they are voting for at their core. I just don’t think he cares.”