– Romney changes view on contraception coverage within an hour (Telegraph, Mar 1, 2012):
Mitt Romney was once again fighting to shake off his image as an accident-prone candidate on Thursday after he was accused of “flip-flopping” over whether US employers with religious affiliations should be forced to pay for contraception.
Asked if he supported a Republican bill that would exempt Catholic and other religious-backed hospitals and schools from a White House rule requiring them to provide free birth control insurance coverage, Mr Romney said he did not.
“I’m not for the bill,” Mr Romney told an interviewer while campaigning in the crucial swing state of Ohio. “The idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a women, husband and wife, I’m not going there.”
However within an hour Mr Romney had apparently changed his mind, with campaign officials saying their candidate had “misunderstood” the question.
“The way the question was asked was confusing. Governor Romney supports the Blunt Bill because he believes in a conscience exemption in health care for religious institutions and people of faith,” said Andrea Saul, a spokesperson for Mr Romney.
Inadvertent or not, the mistake gave further easy ammunition to Mr Romney’s opponents and provided unwanted distractions as he seeks to building momentum for his campaign ahead of next week’s Super Tuesday primary contests.
“In one hour, Mitt Romney showed why women don’t trust him for one minute,” said the Obama campaign in a statement, “It took little more than an hour for him to commit his latest flip-flop. Even worse, he ended up on the wrong side of an issue of critical importance to women.”
Rick Santorum, the ultra-conservative Catholic who is still Mr Romney’s main rival for the nomination, also sought to capitalise on the contraception issue which has angered the Christian evangelical base that has underpinned his recent surge in the polls.
“As governor, Mitt Romney has a clear record of taking away the freedom of religion,” said Mr Santorum’s spokesman, Hogan Gidley.
“We all know Romney’s liberal record on this, so when he’s asked a question about a bill that would protect our religious freedom, and Romney’s gut reaction is to say he’d oppose it, we shouldn’t be the least bit surprised.”
Earlier this week, Mr Romney survived a critical test-vote on the credibility of his candidacy, winning comfortably in Arizona and scoring a narrow victory in his home state of Michigan, where a loss could have fatally wounded his campaign.
Those two wins, which was followed by victory in a straw poll in Wyoming yesterday, appeared to have given the former management consultant some initial momentum running into next Tuesday’s ten-state race.
A new national poll of Republican voters by Rasmussen Reports put Mr Romney 16 points clear of Mr Santorum, who had been leading only a week ago.
However Mr Romney, a relative moderate, has still failed to gain the confidence of the Republican party’s hardcore conservative base and has yet to win any of the key Midwestern states that are needed to carry the presidency in November.
As a result, attention is now focusing on next Tuesday’s race for Ohio, a vital swing state, where Mr Romney has been trailing Mr Santorum in the polls.
Analysts say that failure to win in Ohio would re-open still lingering questions about Mr Romney’s chances of beating Mr Obama in November, which were only half-answered by his three-point win in Michigan.
More on Mitt Romney: