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MA pro-life leaders seek to fortify Romney support

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Byron York

With Mitt Romney facing a last-minute surge from social conservative favorite Rick Santorum in Iowa, several prominent pro-life, pro-traditional marriage leaders in Massachusetts have released an open letter to "conservative friends" urging them to support Romney despite doubts about Romney's record on abortion and marriage.

"We, who have been fighting here for the values you also hold, are indebted to him and his responsive staff in demonstrating solid social conservative credentials," the letter says.  It is signed by, among others, Raymond Flynn, a former mayor of Boston and U.S. ambassador to the Vatican; Harvard law school professor Mary Ann Glendon; Kristian Mineau, head of the Massachusetts Family Institute; and Joseph Reilly, former chairman of Massachusetts Citizens for Life.

Much of the letter is devoted to defending Romney's record on marriage, arguing that he had no choice but to follow the law after the November 2003 decision by the Massachusetts supreme court to legalize gay marriage.  In addition, the authors argue that Romney took steps to stop out-of-state gay couples from coming to Massachusetts to be married.  Romney also worked hard to promote an amendment to the Massachusetts constitution defining marriage as between a man and a woman -- an effort that failed, but only after Romney devoted considerable energy to promoting it.

The letter also covers the issue of abortion, but with less evidence to support Romney.  The authors say Romney, as governor of Massachusetts, "affirmed the culture of life" by vetoing a bill to widen access to the "morning-after" pill.  But they make oblique reference to Romney's races for the Senate in 1994 and for the governorship in 2002 in which he ran as a strongly pro-choice candidate.  "We are aware of the 1994 comments of Senate candidate Romney, which have been the subject of much recent discussion," the authors write.  "While they are, taken by themselves, obviously worrisome to social conservatives including ourselves, they do not dovetail with the actions of Governor Romney from 2003 until now -- and those actions have positively and demonstrably impacted the social climate of Massachusetts."

"It is clear that Governor Romney has learned much since 1994," the authors conclude.

Romney has struggled to win the support of social conservatives, and many of his problems with that group date back to those '94 and '02 campaigns in Massachusetts.  (See this on reports that Romney, who was personally pro-life, decided to run as a pro-choice candidate in 1994 after commissioning a poll that showed a pro-life candidate could not win statewide.)  In Iowa, Romney faces a challenge from a fast-moving Rick Santorum, a hero to some social conservatives, in the last hours of the campaign.  This letter is an effort to keep those social conservatives who do support Romney on board.

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