KALAMAZOO, Mich. – Mitt Romney waded into socially conservative Western Michigan on Friday night and things were going smoothly until about 33 minutes into his town hall meeting.
That's when a woman rose to ask a question. Reading from a clipboard, she asked the former Massachusetts governor why Republican primary voters should regard him “as a man of high standards and integrity” and accused him of having “turned your back on your Mormon religion’s pro-life stance, just like Ted Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi did betray their Catholic faith."
In that moment, Romney was reminded once again why he has struggled in these parts of Michigan to beat back the challenge from his more stridently conservative rival, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum.
But Romney handled the moment calmly by acknowledging that he had supported women’s abortion rights as a candidate in Massachusetts but saying that he evolved during his governorship to oppose abortion rights. And Romney noted that conservative icon President Ronald Reagan similarly changed his position on abortion.
“We need people who recognize that pro-life is the way to go, and we’re getting more and more people joining our cause as time goes on,” Romney said, adding: “I’m a pro-life person and I’ll be a pro-life president.”
Romney didn’t come to the campus of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo Friday night to talk about abortion. He came to discuss the federal debt. To make the point, his campaign build a homemade debt clock that ticked past $15 trillion as Romney was speaking.
“I want to stop that clock and reverse it,” Romney said. “You don’t need a leader if all you want to hear is what your free stuff is going to be. You need a leader to say this is what America needs to do to stand up.”
But that view didn't keep Romney from boasting of free stuff. Or at least of a good discount. As he reminisced about his father, George, who served three terms as Michigan’s governor, Romney said he drove Friday afternoon through the town of Brighton, where his parents are buried.
“My dad is a very frugal man, and he checked all over for where the best deal was on a grave site,” Romney said. “And he found a place in Brighton -- because we didn't live in Brighton. It’s like, ‘How did you pick Brighton, Dad?’ ‘Well, best price I could find in the whole state.’”
“So if you're looking for the best deal on a grave site,” Romney added, “check Brighton. They got a good, got a good spot, and you’re near the former governor and the former first lady.”