Let Up on Romney
A two-minute Web video bashing former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney for his stance on abortion was the latest sign of the feisty approach being taken in this campaign by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas).
On Capitol Hill, Brownback was known for having the same political profile as former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, a Catholic who constantly talked about his faith and strongly opposed gay marriage, abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research, but with a soft voice and a collegial style that Santorum lacked. Brownback won praise from the left and right for his push to end the conflict in Darfur.
But when Romney showed a flash of anger in Sunday's debate, saying "I get tired of people that are holier than thou because they've been pro-life longer than I have," it was targeted at the Kansas Senator. Brownback is trying to use the Ames straw poll to create momentum for his candidacy, and he's looking to court the social conservatives in his party who may be nervous about other candidates, particularly Romney and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Romney has in the past said he backs abortion rights, while Giuliani still does.
Brownback's campaign has used automated phone calls to inform Iowa Republicans that Romney's wife Ann once donated to Planned Parenthood, a group that supports abortion right, and Brownback's blog includes a link to the "Mitt Flop File," where Brownback's staff has compiled alleged position changes by Romney. Brownback has also criticized Tom Tancredo for accepting money from a Michigan man who helped form a Planned Parenthood chapter. And after a supporter of former Arkansas Mike Huckabee questioned Brownback's Catholic faith in an e-mail, Brownback stridently and repeatedly called for a formal apology from Huckabee, who had already distanced himself from the supporter's e-mail.
At the same time, Brownback, while trying to move as far to the right of his opponent's on social issues, is taking more unpredictable views on other subjects. His call for a three-state division of Iraq and increased diplomacy resemble the approach of a Democratic candidate, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.). And his goal of ending deaths by cancer in the next ten years is perhaps the most dramatic goal any candidate from either party in the campaign.
--Perry Bacon Jr.
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