PoliGraph: Bachmann half right on Romney rap

While U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann touts her consistent positions on an array of issues dear to conservatives, in a new ad the Republican presidential hopeful says that her GOP opponents have records filled with surprises.

They’ve flip-flopped on abortion, immigration, health care and gay marriage, among other things, Bachmann says.

The new talking point represents a subtle shift in Bachmann’s tactics in the lead-up to the all-important Iowa caucuses. Rather than contrast her record against that of President Barack Obama, who has largely been the target of her criticism up until now, Bachmann is highlighting her record against those of her GOP opponents.

During a Nov. 13, 2011, Meet the Press interview, Bachmann singled out former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

“There’s certainly a sharp contrast between myself and Gov. Romney,” she said. “He has been pro-choice, I am pro-life. He has been for marriage between people of the same sex. I am for marriage between one man and one woman.”

Romney has flip-flopped on abortion, but not on same-sex marriage.

The Evidence

Unlike Bachmann, who has always opposed abortion, Romney’s stance on the issue has turned 180 degrees since he took the national stage.

In 1994, while challenging Democrat Ted Kennedy for his Senate seat, Romney said that he was personally opposed to abortion, but that he would not force his belief on others.

“I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country,” he said during the debate. “I believe that since Roe vs. Wade has been the law for 20 years, that we should sustain and support that law and the right of a woman to make that choice.”

In 2002, while running for governor of Massachusetts, Romney said he would “preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose, and am devoted and dedicated to honoring my word in that regard.”

In the intervening years, as Romney aimed for the White House, he changed his tune.

Recently, he wrote in the National Review that he is “pro-life and believe[s] that abortion should be limited to only instances of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.” He also wrote that he would support the reversal of Roe vs. Wade, a departure from his 1994 comments, among other proposals that would limit abortion.

While Bachmann has always opposed gay marriage, Romney’s shifting positions on gay rights are far more nuanced. While running for Senate, Romney won the support of the Republican Log Cabin Club of Massachusetts by promising to support efforts that would end discrimination against gays and lesbians. “We must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern,” Romney wrote in a 1994 letter to the group. “My opponent cannot do this,” he said of Kennedy. “I can and will.”

During his run for governor, Romney also said that he would support giving same-sex couples benefits such as hospital visitation rights and inheritance rights. That same year, after Romney’s wife, son and daughter-in-law signed a petition to put a gay marriage constitutional amendment on the ballot, his spokesperson told the Bay Window newspaper that Romney “is opposed to gay marriage, but in the case of the ‘defense of marriage’ amendment Mitt believes it goes too far in that it would outlaw domestic partnership for non-traditional couples.”

In October of that year, Romney drove that message home. “Call me old fashioned,” he said, “but I don’t support gay marriage, nor do I support civil union if it is the exact embodiment of marriage.”

One New York Times article reported that Romney told the Log Cabin Club in 2002 that he opposed gay marriage, but he wouldn’t fight the state’s Supreme Court if it ultimately ruled gay marriage to be legal.

But that’s exactly what Romney did in 2003 when same-sex marriage was made legal. Romney said he disagreed with the ruling because marriage should be between a man and woman.

“I will support an amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution that makes that expressly clear,” he said, according to a Nov. 20, 2003 New York Times article. “Of course, we must provide basic civil rights and appropriate benefits to nontraditional couples, but marriage is a special institution that should be reserved for a man and a woman.”

In subsequent months, the Boston Globe reported that Romney asked lawmakers to vote for such a ban, but not one that would prevent civil unions.

Today, Romney’s rhetoric on the subject isn’t much different, though it is more direct, and, say some of his critics, more severe. Romney has signed a pledge to support a federal ban of gay marriage, among other things. But he’s also said that he still supports giving same-sex couples some benefits, such as hospital visitation rights.

The Verdict

Bachmann’s clearly correct that Romney flip-flopped on abortion.

And it would be fair to say that Romney’s record on gay rights has been a bit muddy; at times he’s appeared to court gay supporters, and at others, he’s appeared to reject gay rights.

But he’s always said that he opposes same-sex marriage, so the second part of Bachmann’s claim is incorrect.

SOURCES

Meet the Press, Nov. 13, 2011 episode

Footage from the 1994 Kennedy/Romney debate, accessed Nov. 15, 2011

Footage from 2002 Massachusetts Gubernatorial debate, accessed Nov. 15, 2011

The Boston Globe, Why I vetoed contraception bill, By Mitt Romney, July 26, 2005

The National Review, My Pro-Life Pledge, by Mitt Romney, June 18, 2011

The New York Times, Romney’s Tone on Gay Rights Is Seen as Shift, by Michael Luo, Sept. 8, 2007 MICHAEL LUO

1994 letter from Romney to Log Cabin Club of Massachusetts, accessed Nov. 16, 2011

The New York Times, Romney’s Gay Rights Stance Draws Ire, by Adam Nagourney and David D. Kirkpatrick, Dec. 9, 2006

CNN, Interview with Mitt Romney regarding gay adoption, accessed Nov. 16, 2011

The Bay Window, Gay GOP touts Romney as good for the community, March 28, 2002

The New York Times, Marriage by Gays Gains Big Victory in Massachusetts, by Pam Belluck, November 20, 2003

The New York Times, Obey Same-Sex Marriage Law, Officials Told, by Katie Zezima, April 26, 2004

C-SPAN, Massachusetts Gubernatorial Debate, Oct. 1, 2002

The Huffington Post, Mitt Romney Supports ‘Partnership Agreements,’ Not Marriage, For Gay Couples, by Sam Stein, Oct. 11, 2011

CBS News, Mitt Romney pledges opposition to gay marriage, By Brian Montopoli, Aug. 4, 2011

  • Quivley

    I have now lost all respect for Michelle Bachmann as she clearly is dishonest. If she were honest she would have said although Romney is NOW PRO-LIFE at one time he was not. She simply lied when she said Romney was for same sex marriage. Michelle KNOWS BETTER. Shame on Bachmann!