As former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney soars in the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, where he is the only Republican running TV ads, his competitors are attacking him with a new level of verve and gusto.
On Wednesday the campaign of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., issued a press release attacking him, for instance, for being a flip-flopper on abortion.
Romney has claimed that during a meeting with a researcher on embryonic stem cells, Dr. Douglas Melton, on Nov. 9, 2004, he was struck that society had devalued human life. (Melton disagrees with Romney's account of this meeting, you can read more about it HERE).
A new Youtube video Team McCain unleashed today (LINK), from May 27, 2005 -- six months after meeting with Melton -- where then-Gov. Romney says at a press conference that he wasn't going to push any anti-abortion legislation.
"I am absolutely committed to my promise to maintain the status quo with regards to laws relating to abortion and choice," Romney says. "And so far I've been able to successfully do that. And my personal philosophical views about this issue is not something that I think would do anything other than distract from what I think is a more critical agenda which relates to the topic we're talking about today but also jobs, education and health care."
Says McCain spokesman Matt David: "Mitt Romney's biggest challenge in this election will be convincing Republicans he has principled positions on important issues, especially now that it's known that he remained committed to pro-choice policies after his 'epiphany' on abortion in 2004. In stark contrast, John McCain has a consistent 24 year pro-life record."
When you probe a little deeper, though, it turns out on that same day, May 27, 2005, Romney was certainly acting like an anti-abortion governor.
That day he vetoed a state bill funding embryonic stem cell research because it allowed the cloning of human embryos. As the state legislature debated the bill, Romney requested that lawmakers include various amendments, all of which would then be considered anti-abortion: 1) defining life as beginning at the moment of conception; 2) banning embryo creation for other research; and 3) limiting how much women who donate their eggs can be paid. All the amendments were rejected.
More fireworks are expected in two days, Friday, in Kansas City, Mo., when the National Right to Life Convention (LINK) will be held.
Confirmed attendees include Romney and the candidate who seems most irked by Romney's conversion on abortion, Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas.
Most recently, Brownback has been trying to out-flank Romney by pressing him on whether or not he thinks abortion is "murder."
When asked if he thought abortion is murder at an "Ask Mitt Anything Town Meeting" at the Belknap Mill in Laconia, NH, at the end of May, Romney demurred, saying that the term "murder" "means different things to different people," but that in general he thought as a the moment of conception "it is alive and it is human."
Responded Martin Gillespie, political director of Brownback for President: (HERE) "Mitt Romney's flip-flops on abortion throughout the years make more sense now. Every different Romney flip-flop on abortion has coincided perfectly with the most politically expedient position of the campaign he was in. Romney says life begins at conception, but doesn't think abortion is murder and Romney says he's pro-life but he thinks states should be able to choose to allow abortion. Every time he tries to clarify, as he tried to do last week, it becomes more and more confusing."
What do you think?