Share

Romney, Santorum trade blasts on pro-life beliefs

By |

TROY, Mich. -- At a conservative summit just days before the critical Michigan primary, Mitt Romney blasted rival Rick Santorum for endorsing pro-choice Republican (and fellow Pennsylvanian) Arlen Specter for president in 1996.

"He supported Arlen Specter, by the way, in 1996, when Arlen Specter was running for president," Romney told the crowd at an Americans for Prosperity meeting here in Troy.  "Arlen Specter -- the only pro-choice candidate we've seen in that race.  There were other conservatives running, like Bob Dole.  He didn’t support them.  He supported the pro-choice candidate, Arlen Specter."

Romney's criticism has particularly rankled Santorum because just two years before that 1996 race, Romney himself ran as a pro-choice candidate for senator from Massachusetts.  "I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country," Romney said in that 1994 campaign.  "I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years that we should sustain and support it."

The next time Romney ran for public office, in the 2002 Massachusetts governor's race, he again ran as a pro-choice candidate.  He said of the state's pro-choice laws, "I will preserve them. I will protect them. I will enforce them. I do not take the position of a pro-life candidate. I am in favor of preserving and protecting a woman's right to choose."  In a widely-discussed turnaround in 2005, then-Gov. Romney published an op-ed in the Boston Globe declaring, "I am pro-life."  In his speech in Troy he declared flatly, "I was a pro-life governor."

Asked about Romney's criticisms, Santorum said, "It's interesting that a guy who was himself pro-choice in 1996 would be criticizing me for that.  Gov. Romney at that time was dead wrong, and even after his -- quote -- conversion in 2004, he continued to do things to undermine the pro-life cause."

"For somebody who is maybe the weakest candidate we've ever had on the pro-life issue to attack the leader of the pro-life cause is absurd," Santorum continued.

Romney's criticism of Santorum's Specter endorsement was part of an extended attack on his top rival.  In the speech, Romney hit Santorum particularly hard on Santorum's admission during the recent Arizona debate that he "took one for the team" and voted against his principles when he supported President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind legislation.  "This taking one for the team, that's business as usual in Washington," Romney said. "We can't continue to take one for the team.  My team is the people of the United States of America.'

In addition, the Romney campaign has been sending out emails headlined RICK SANTORUM: ABANDONING HIS PRINCIPLES FOR HIS OWN POLITICAL ADVANTAGE.

In an interview, Santorum defended his statements from the recent debate, including his admission of regret over voting for No Child Left Behind.  "As you can see, I didn't feel good about voting for it," Santorum said.  "Here's the difference.  When I make a mistake, I admit it.  Maybe I admit too much, but I think it shows the depths with which I hold my convictions."

"The difference between me and Gov. Romney is that he doesn't even recognize when he's been inconsistent," Romney continued.  "He glosses over and doesn't even tell the truth….Here is a guy who is the ultimate flip-flopper running for president, and he's attacking me for not being principled?  That doesn't wash."

The battle between Romney and Santorum in Michigan has become increasingly personal.  It's not something that's particularly popular with voters; people at both Romney and Santorum events express distaste for the candidates' bickering with each other, and while Romney received enthusiastic applause for his policy proposals during the Troy speech, the room became considerably quieter when he began attacking Santorum.  Yet with voting just three days away, both men seem locked in a fight that neither can abandon.

View article comments Leave a comment
Author:

Byron York

Chief Political Correspondent
The Washington Examiner