Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has tried to keep his campaign focused on economic and fiscal issues, but President Barack Obama's latest television commercial in Iowa spotlights abortion rights and federal funding for Planned Parenthood. The video, annotated transcript, and related news are all after the jump.
Here is the latest 30-second Obama campaign commercial. "The Same" is running in Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, Ohio and Florida.
Female voice-over: He's made his choice. [footage Romney shaking hands with his running mate, Representative Paul Ryan]
But what choices will women be left with? [Footage of sad-looking woman, gazing into the camera]
Just like Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan would get rid of Planned Parenthood funding. [Footage of Romney and Ryan standing side by side, waving to crowd. Words on screen Romney-Ryan Get Rid of Planned Parenthood Funding The New York Times 8/12/12 Fox News 3/14/12]
In Congress, Ryan voted to ban all federal funding for Planned Parenthood [footage of Ryan walking down a hallway, speaking to camera, words on screen PAUL RYAN Voted to Ban Planned Parenthood Funding The New York Times 8/12/12]
and allow employers to deny women access to cancer screenings and birth control. [view shifts to woman sitting on exam table in partly darkened room, looks like a doctor's office; words on screen Romney-Ryan Allow Employers to Deny Women Access to Cancer Screenings & Birth Control The Washington Post 2/29/12 ABC This Week 2/13/12]
And both Romney and Ryan backed proposals to outlaw abortion [footage of Ryan speaking to camera, words on screen Romney-Ryan Both Oppose Abortion The New York Times 8/12/12 ABC News 4/16/12]
even in cases of rape and incest. [footage of Ryan and Romney sitting side by side, Ryan smiles while looking at Romney speak to off-screen interviewer, words on screen Romney-Ryan Oppose Abortion Even in Cases of Rape & Incest The New York Times 8/12/12 CNN Debate 11/28/07]
For women, for president, the choice is ours. [view shifts to brief footage of two different women, looking seriously into the camera]
Barack Obama's voice: I'm Barack Obama and I approve this message. [footage of Obama walking outside White House, words on screen FORWARD BarackObama.com/Forward Approved by Barack Obama. Paid for by Obama for America.
Nothing subtle about this commercial or the underlying strategy. Obama can't win this election without preserving his current advantage among women voters. UPDATE: After watching the ad a few times, I feel the producers created an effective contrast by juxtaposing serious-looking "ordinary women" with smiling/laughing Romney and Ryan (who would ostensibly impose their judgment on women).
I remember some Obama radio commercials about abortion during the 2008 general election campaign, but I can't remember whether abortion was the focus of a statewide television commercial in Iowa. Earlier this summer, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund ran an anti-Romney spot on cable television in the Des Moines market, but not statewide. That commercial didn't use the word "abortion." Instead, the voice-over said Romney would "deny women the right to make their own medical decisions," and footage from a Republican debate showed Romney saying the Supreme Court should overturn Roe v Wade.
Romney would rather say as little as possible about abortion. His campaign spokesperson Amanda Henneberg released this response to the latest Obama commercial:
"No misleading ad can change the fact that President Obama's economic policies have devastated women and their families. Under President Obama, hundreds of thousands of women have lost their jobs, poverty among women is the highest in nearly two decades, and half of recent graduates can't find a good job.
"Mitt Romney has a plan for a stronger middle class that will jumpstart the economy, bring back jobs, and help women across the country," Henneberg said.
It's not "misleading" to point out that Romney has supported proposals to ban abortion rights, but Romney says he would make exceptions in cases of rape or incest. Ryan has sponsored so-called "personhood" legislation, which defines life as beginning at conception and prohibits the termination of a pregnancy after that point. In fact, personhood bills would ban not only abortion, but some methods of birth control, which prevent implantation of a fertilized egg.
The Romney campaign was scrambling yesterday and today to react to idiotic comments from Republican U.S. Senate nominee Todd Akin of Missouri. Akin suggested during a television interview, "First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." News flash: One study during the 1990s estimated that the "national rape-related pregnancy rate is 5.0% per rape among victims of reproductive age (aged 12 to 45)," and among adult women in the U.S., "an estimated 32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year."
A Romney campaign statement released Sunday night said, "Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin's statement. A Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape."
This morning, Romney told the National Review Online,
"Congressman's Akin comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong," Romney said. "Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive." [...]
"I have an entirely different view," Romney said. "What [Akin] said is entirely without merit and he should correct it."
The social conservative crowd won't like hearing that a Romney-Ryan administration would specifically allow a woman to terminate a pregnancy in the event of rape or incest. That wing of the GOP tends to view abortion in those circumstances as punishing a baby for the father's crime.
Any comments about the presidential campaign are welcome in this thread. Note: over Labor Day weekend, Bleeding Heartland plans to recap the summertime television commercials aired by the Obama and Romney campaigns in Iowa.
P.S. - The final count of corn kernels cast by 2012 Iowa State Fair visitors at WHO-TV's table: 39,714 for Romney, 32,502 for Obama. I'm surprised it was that close. UPDATE: Though Dave Price notes that Obama did run a little ahead of John McCain in WHO's 2008 Iowa State Fair corn poll.
According to a WHO-TV press release,
In 2011, 40,267 kernels were cast with Republicans taking 60% of the vote and the President 40%. Michelle Bachmann lead Republicans with 26%. Rick Perry came in second with 23%. Mitt Romney tied for third with Ron Paul each with 15%.
The 2010 "Cast Your Kernel" poll focused on Iowa's gubernatorial race. Culver lost to his Republican challenger, former 4-term Governor Terry Branstad, by 40 points, 70 to 30% with 37,573 total kernels.
In 2008, Barack Obama edged out John McCain 51 to 49% with 48,865 kernels cast.
UPDATE: The president hasn't been doing press availabilities lately, but he stopped by the White House briefing room on August 20 to condemn Akin's comments.
"The views expressed were offensive," President Obama said. "Rape is rape and the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we're talking about doesn't make sense to the American people and it certainly doesn't make sense to me." [...]
"What I think these comments do underscore is why we shouldn't have a bunch of politicians, the majority of whom are men, making health care decisions on behalf of women," the president said.
"Although these particular comments have led Governor Romney and other Republicans to distance themselves, I think the underlying notion that we should be making decisions on behalf of women for their health care decisions or qualifying forcible rape versus non-forcible rape, I think those are broader issues and that is a significant difference in approach between me and the other party," Mr. Obama said.
SECOND UPDATE: The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a 501(c)6 organization affiliated with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, released this statement on August 20:
Washington, DC -- Recent remarks by a member of the US House of Representatives suggesting that "women who are victims of 'legitimate rape' rarely get pregnant" are medically inaccurate, offensive, and dangerous.
Each year in the US, 10,000-15,000 abortions occur among women whose pregnancies are a result of reported rape or incest. An unknown number of pregnancies resulting from rape are carried to term. There is absolutely no veracity to the claim that "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down." A woman who is raped has no control over ovulation, fertilization, or implantation of a fertilized egg (ie, pregnancy). To suggest otherwise contradicts basic biological truths.
Any person forced to submit to sexual intercourse against his or her will is the victim of rape, a heinous crime. There are no varying degrees of rape. To suggest otherwise is inaccurate and insulting and minimizes the serious physical and psychological repercussions for all victims of rape.