In appeal to swing voters, Romney offers a more centrist message

Holly Bailey
The Ticket

CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio—With less than a month to go before Election Day, Mitt Romney faces a choice between whipping up the support of his conservative base or appealing to swing voters who could be persuaded to back his bid for the presidency.

In recent days, Romney has chosen to focus on the latter, pushing a more centrist message on the campaign trail. His latest turn came Tuesday when he told the editorial board of the Des Moines Register that he has no plans to push for legislation limiting abortion.

"There's no legislation with regards to abortion that I'm familiar with that would become part of my agenda," Romney told the Register.

He would use an executive order to reinstate the so-called Mexico City policy that bans foreign aid from being used to fund abortions overseas, the Republican candidate told the Register. Still, that's a softer stance from Romney, who strongly advocated cutting federal funds for Planned Parenthood during the Republican primary and has said repeatedly he would appoint judges to the Supreme Court who would overturn Roe v. Wade.

Afterward, Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul appeared to temper Romney's comment, telling National Review that Romney would "of course support legislation aimed at providing greater protections for life."

But the distinction appeared to be between whether Romney would advocate specific legislation or merely support a bill that came to his desk, if he were elected. Asked for clarification, Saul simply emailed a somewhat vague statement she had provided to other news organizations seeking comment.

"Mitt Romney is proudly pro-life, and he will be a pro-life president," Saul said in an email to Yahoo News.

In a statement to reporters, Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith called Romney's statement "deceptive."

"It's troubling that Mitt Romney is so willing to play politics with such important issues," Smith said. "But we know the truth about where he stands on a woman's right to choose. Women simply can't trust him."

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Romney's abortion comments come as the candidate has softened his approach on the trail, sprinkling his stump speech with personal anecdotes about the Americans he's met on the trail and helped in his private life. At the same time, he's embraced a more moderate political stance, emphasizing bipartisanship in Washington—a theme he's talked about previously on the trail but made a focal point of his remarks at his first debate with President Barack Obama.

"I will do everything in my power to draw on that greatness of the American people: to make us more united as a people, to have us pull together, to reach across the aisle and find good Democrats in the House and Senate that care deeply about America just as I do," Romney said at a rally in Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Sunday. "I know they're there. I know they'll work together if they have leadership that will actually work and share credit and find ways to solve our great challenges. I know that's going to happen."

It's a message that Romney is expected to push again and again in the coming weeks. Aides to the GOP candidate told Yahoo News his closing argument will include a heavy emphasis on his record as governor of Massachusetts—where, as he often reminds voters, he was a Republican in a heavily Democratic state.

That's a shift from Romney's message in February, when he told a gathering of Republican activists that he had been a "severely conservative" governor in Massachusetts.

But one major unknown is whether Romney will move to embrace the health care reform law he signed as governor of Massachusetts. It's legislation that is widely considered to be Romney's shining policy legacy but one he has distanced himself from as he has campaigned to repeal Obama's health care law, which was modeled after Romney's bill.

But Romney has softened his language there, too, telling NBC News in an interview last month that his decision to champion health care reform in Massachusetts is proof of his "empathy and care" for the American people.

That interview came as Romney sought to defend his remarks, captured on a secret video at a May fundraiser, in which he suggested Obama supporters—which he estimated to be 47 percent of the country—had a "victim" mentality and were too dependent on the government.

After the video was made public, Romney initially doubled down on his remarks. But in an interview with Fox News's Sean Hannity the day after his first debate with Obama, Romney dialed back on that rhetoric, too, insisting he had been "completely wrong" to make the suggestion.

"Clearly in a campaign with hundreds, if not thousands, of speeches and question-and-answer sessions, now and then you're going to say something that doesn't come out right. In this case, I said something that's just completely wrong," Romney said. "I absolutely believe, however, that my life has shown that I care about 100 percent and that's been demonstrated throughout my life."