Michelle Goldberg of The Daily Beast has an insightful analysis of Candidate Romney’s “Weird Abortion Gamble,” as she terms it, in refusing to sign the SBA List’s 2012 Pro-Life Presidential Leadership pledge. It’s also a good blow-by-blow documentation of his shifting self-identification as pro-life vs. “pro-choice.”
On one hand, it seems oddly principled of Romney, a candidate who has always been guided by expediency when it comes to abortion.
But on the other, as I have blogged before, Romney had little to lose by signing the pledge:
Indeed, given Romney’s history, it’s surprising that he’s not bending over backward to shore up his anti-abortion credibility. After all, one thing that activists on both sides can agree on is that following Romney’s pronouncements on choice over the years produces a sort of whiplash. Running against Ted Kennedy for Senate in 1994, he was resolutely pro-choice, citing the death of his brother-in-law’s teenaged sister from a botched abortion as the reason for his conviction. Then, while living in Utah in 2001 and contemplating a political career in that state, he distanced himself from his earlier position. “I do not wish to be labeled pro-choice,” he wrote in a letter to the editor of the Salt Lake City Tribune.
It could be that this time around, Romney is giving up on the religious right from the outset. Unlike in 2008, he’s skipping Iowa. Maybe he thinks there’s a constituency for moderation in the Republican Party, and that he can somehow turn his mercurial stand on abortion into an advantage. So far, there’s no pro-choice Republican like Rudolph Giuliani in the mix, nor a figure like McCain who’s been butting heads with family-values types for years. In this field, Romney may have no choice but to run to the left of the other candidates on social issues while trying to convince an ever-more right-wing party to make him its tribune. That will be a supremely tricky thing to do, though when it comes to ideological bobbing and weaving, Romney has had many years of practice.
Multiple observers with many different viewpoints are converging on the conclusion that Candidate Romney’s inexcusable refusal to sign a basic pro-life pledge means the obvious–he isn’t really pro-life.