Anti-abortion zealots do not trust Mitt Romney one bit. At the Republican Leadership Conference over the weekend, the Susan B. Anthony List, the organization nominally dedicated to electing anti-abortion women to office, announced the pledge they've convinced most of the major candidates to sign. But Mitt Romney refused to sign the pledge.
Nevermind that the pledge asks candidates to commit to an overbearing and likely illegal agenda that includes defunding Planned Parenthood as well as codify fetal-pain laws even though they break with established law set by the Supreme Court. Or that Herman Cain didn't sign the pledge either. The far right of the Republican Party, both Tea Partiers and anti-abortion extremists, are going after Romney with all they've got. SBA List attacked Romney for not signing, with rival candidates Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum piling on and questioning his anti-abortion credentials. Romney responded to the criticism with his own pledge in National Review.
Romney fans may bemoan the fact that Romney wasn't savvy enough to sign the pledge, but I think the biggest problem is his equally restrictive personal pledge. The trouble for more moderate Republican candidates like Romney, Huntsman, and even Pawlenty, is that they ostensibly have to veer very far right to win their party's nomination, but that the extreme views they must take to make it to round two will make them unelectable to the public as a whole next November. Pawlenty has decided to go as far right as he can and will likely back-peddle later. Romney, who will never appeal to evangelicals, has taken the opposite tack, playing the part of the more moderate candidate. Part of this is out of necessity -- he did sign Massachusetts's health-care law and he was for abortion rights before he was against them. But it's also a winning strategy if he can squeak by in the primary. He could never out-Bachmann Bachmann.