With the gender gap shrinking as Mitt Romney surges, Dems are hoping Romney’s comments about abortion to the Des Moines Register yesterday have given them a shot at renewing their pitch for women and reopening that gap. Romney told the paper this:

“There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.”

A Romney spokesperson promptly walked that back: “Gov. Romney would of course support legislation aimed at providing greater protections for life.”

The Obama campaign held a conference call this morning to hit Romney over the reversal, arguing that his comments showed he’s obscuring the extreme positions he took on women’s issues to get through the primary. Importantly, the Obama camp tied this to the House GOP, noting that Romney running mate Paul Ryan has co-sponsored various extreme abortion bills in the House.

“Women can’t trust Mitt Romney, and the American people can’t trust him to be honest and direct about where he stands,” Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, said on the call, adding that Romney “wants to get rid of women’s access to birth control,” that he wants to “get rid of Planned Parenthood,” and to “overturn Roe.”

“This Congress has repeatedly taken aim at taking women back decades,” Richards continued. “Who is in the White House makes an enormous difference. President Obama has stood up to the Tea Party Congress and said, `We’re not going to get rid of those things.’”

There seems to be a debate underway over whether the Obama campaign should portray Romney as “severely conservative” or as a “flip flopper,” with some noting that these are at odds with each other. But really, there needn’t be any conflict here. Romney took a number of positions to get through the primary that are extreme. He is now trying to obscure and moderate those positions to win the general election. One can point both of those things out without contradiction. And by the way, this is true on issue after issue after issue, from abortion to tax cuts to immigration.

The real question is whether people will fall for it. If there’s one thing the debate showed, it’s that Romney has proven extremely adept at obscuring the true nature of his actual agenda. And yet, the pre-debate gender gap does seem to show that his actual positions on issues important to women did give them pause. That was mitigated by Mitt’s excellent debate performance, in which he did a very good job speaking to the economic concerns of unmarried women, a key constituency in Obama’s coalition.

But Romney is, in fact, on record taking a number of positions on abortion and women’s health that will again alienate them — that is, if the Obama campaign can successfully punch through all the evasions and obfuscations and remind them what those positions really are.


UPDATE: Let me clarify a bit. There’s no contradiction in arguing both of the following: First, Romney took extreme positions to get through the primary that he’d be expected to honor as president — and very likely would honor if he wins. Second, Romney is now flip flopping away from those positions; he’s trying to obscure and cover them up to get through the general.