Romney backed taxpayer-funded abortions

In theory, revelations like these would shake up the Republican presidential race, but that assumes Mitt Romney has competent primary rivals who actually want to win.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s past support for abortion rights and state-funded family planning, especially during his Senate run in 1994 against Ted Kennedy, is well known. But Romney’s support has lasted longer, and goes deeper, than many may assume.

During Romney’s 2002 gubernatorial campaign, he sought the endorsement of Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts by filling out a questionnaire that made his continued support clear. The document was first circulated in 2007, but is now taking on new relevance as Romney tries to clarify his opposition to abortion rights and government-funded family planning.

Romney pledged his support for Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that protects women’s choice, for laws protecting the safety of abortion clinics, for increased access to the morning-after pill and for late-term abortions when the mother’s health is at risk. Romney also indicated on the form that he supported the “state funding of abortion services through Medicaid for low-income women.”

At a certain level, this seems huge. Romney, in his only successful campaign for public office, put his commitment to reproductive rights in writing — not only endorsing protections for Roe, but also expressing support for using taxpayer money to pay for abortion services.

This is about the time we’d see every other Republican presidential campaign launch their rapid-response operations, raising hell with every political reporter they can find. We’d see press releases, web videos, the works.

But in 2011, that just never seems to happen.

I thought, for example, the GOP field would be apoplectic when we learned that Romney had promised center-left activists he would “act as essentially a sleeper agent within the Republican Party, adopting liberal stances, rising to national prominence, and thereby legitimizing them and transforming the Party from within.” But the other Republican campaigns let it slide.

I also thought the GOP field would go berserk when we learned that Romney’s health care program in Massachusetts uses taxpayer money to provide medical care to undocumented immigrants. But the other Republican campaigns let this slide, too.

I also thought the GOP field would pounce immediately on revelations that Romney’s policy team advised the Obama White House on how best to shape “Obamacare.” But, again, the other Republican campaigns said nothing.

I thought Romney would be slammed repeatedly for his support of health care mandates. And his support for gun control. And his record supporting gay rights. And his belief in climate change. And now his support for taxpayer-financed abortions. Sure, he’s flip-flopped on all of these issues and more, and has become something of a far-right extremist, but at one time, Romney was practically a liberal — a detail that might matter to some Republican primary voters.

And yet, with fewer than eight weeks to go before the Iowa caucuses, there are no attack ads targeting Romney airing anywhere in the country, and in last night’s debate, no one even tried to lay a glove on him.

It’s one thing to note how lucky Romney has been, but this is something else altogether. We’re talking about an entire GOP presidential field that practically seems willing to let Romney win.