Romney Refines Message on Taxes and Abortion
CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio — Continuing to embrace a more moderate political persona, Mitt Romney offered assurances on Tuesday that he would protect tax deductions for the middle class on home mortgages and charitable donations. And he also also said he had no plans to pursue new laws limiting abortion.
“There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda,” he told the editorial board of The Des Moines Register.
With new polling suggesting that he was closing the gap with President Obama in the crucial battleground of Ohio, Mr. Romney subtly distanced himself from earlier divisive statements as he sought to broaden his appeal, especially with women.
Mr. Romney’s statement on abortion seemed to conflict with some Republicans in Congress who have sought to further restrict federal funding for abortions, including bills supported by his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan.
In a statement given to the conservative National Review Online on Tuesday, a Romney spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, seemed to contradict the candidate: “Governor Romney would of course support legislation aimed at providing greater protections for life.”
Candidates in general election campaigns often try to appeal to a broader base of voters as the election nears, but Mr. Romney’s comments on abortion, along with his position on immigration — in which he took a harder line during the nominating contest — have drawn criticism from the Obama campaign and others, accusing the Republican candidate of shifting positions for political convenience.
The Obama campaign accused Mr. Romney of seeking to “play politics” with abortion and pointed to earlier statements of this year that he would appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade.
Mr. Romney also inched closer to filling in details of his sweeping tax cut plan, which Mr. Obama says would give huge breaks to the wealthy and raise the burdens on the middle class. Although Mr. Romney has insisted that he would lower tax rates with no loss in revenue by closing loopholes, he has never specified which ones, opening him to charges that he would do away with popular deductions for mortgage interest and charitable donations.
But in an interview with CNN, Mr. Romney said he would protect those deductions, at least for the middle class. The problem is that doing so would make it harder to collect enough tax revenue, deepening the federal budget deficit, independent budget analysts say.
His comments on abortion and taxes Tuesday came as both candidates descended on Ohio, Mr. Romney beginning a multiday tour and Mr. Obama exhorting 15,000 at the Ohio State University campus in Columbus to vote right away, as polls suggested that his support was slipping.
October in Ohio suddenly felt a lot like December in Iowa — candidates barnstorming on bus tours, saturation advertising, impassioned pleas to round up friends and cast ballots.
“Buckeyes, I’ve got a question: are you registered to vote?” the president yelled at supporters. It was the last day of “golden week,” so named because it is the week in which residents can register and then vote at the same time and place.
“Grab your friends, grab everybody in your dorm, grab your fraternity or sorority,” Mr. Obama said to cheers. “Don’t delay. Go vote today.”
On the campaign trail, Mr. Romney tried to highlight a more empathetic side of himself, recounting stories of people he knew whose lives were cut short. On Tuesday he spoke for the first time of having met Glen A. Doherty, 42, who was killed defending the American diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.
“You can imagine how I felt,” Mr. Romney said, “when I found out he was one of the two former Navy SEALs killed in Benghazi on Sept. 11.”
The story seemed to serve a more political purpose, too, a reminder of Republican criticism of the Obama administration’s failure to quickly acknowledge that the Benghazi assault was the premeditated work of terrorists.
Trip Gabriel reported from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, and Helene Cooper from Columbus, Ohio. Jeff Zeleny contributed reporting from Columbus.