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January 28, 2007
Romney Acknowledges Shift On Abortion

Attempting to defuse a controversy that threatened his claim to Republican conservatism, Governor Mitt Romney acknowledged that his views on abortion had changed during his years of public service. At the National Review's Conservative Summit, he gave his explanation of his transformation:

"On abortion, I wasn't always a Ronald Reagan conservative," Romney told a gathering of conservatives. "Neither was Ronald Reagan, by the way. But like him, I learned from experience."

During his 2002 campaign for Massachusetts governor, Romney said that while he personally opposed abortion, he would leave the state's abortion laws intact.

In his speech Saturday, he said he had had a change of heart after a discussion with a stem cell researcher.

Romney had to come up with an explanation for his change of heart on abortion. Pro-life conservatives would not have trusted Romney with the nomination unless they understood the shift in his position as coming from conviction rather than political expediency. He obviously has worked on this answer for a while; invoking Ronald Reagan provided a nice touch, especially at an event such as the National Review summit.

Is it enough? In the field as it currently stands, probably so. Rudy Giuliani has a longer and more defined track record than Romney as a pro-choice politician, and will likely not attempt to change it for the presidential run. His strength comes from his decisiveness, no matter what the New York Times tries to do to that reputation, and he will do more damage than good by attempting to change positions at this point in his career. John McCain has a more solid record as an abortion opponent, but he has a huge credibility gap with conservatives after McCain-Feingold and his attempts to regulate political speech. Other candidates have longer and more reliable records as conservatives, but only Mike Huckabee will have the requisite executive experience to challenge Romney for that position.

In the end, though, this issue generates more heat than light for Presidential campaigns. The White House has little direct effect on abortion politics except as a tone-setter, with the occasional opportunity to approve or veto a bill like the partial-birth abortion ban. The most influence the President will have on abortion is the ability to nominate federal appellate jurists who will roll back Roe v Wade in a larger pushback against judicial activism. Both Romney and Giuliani have pledged to nominate judges in that tradition, while McCain will best be remembered for his Gang of 14 efforts to block several of those judges from reaching the bench.

In that respect, even a change of position for Romney will still make him more trustworthy than McCain, regardless of his narrative, or lack thereof.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 28, 2007 11:43 AM

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