A Tipping Point?

Rudy Giuliani got some flack for his handling of the abortion issue at the first Republican presidential debate. ("It would be OK" if the Supreme Court upholds Roe V. Wade, he said. Also, "it would be OK to repeal it." Oh, and it "would be OK also if a strict constructionist viewed it as precedent." OK then!)

The rest of the GOP pack was more on message on the issue, using it as an opportunity to throw some red meat to the conservative base: Sam Brownback, for example, said the overturning of the 1973 abortion decision would be a "glorious day of human liberty and freedom."

Giuliani has been trying to keep the issue from hurting him with prospective primary voters, and based on the polls, he has been able to pull it off so far. But the sudden emergence of the news that "in the '90s he contributed money at least six times to Planned Parenthood, one of the country's leading abortion rights groups and its top provider of abortions" is going to complicated matters.

The press corps now has a pretty strong piece of information to cite in efforts to nail down Giuliani's position on the issue, and that makes it a lot harder for him to keep from saying something that will alienate a significant number of voters.

Giuliani, as the Politico points out, has been trying for a somewhat nuanced approach on the issue on the campaign trail. He says he is "against abortion. I hate it. I wish there never was an abortion, and I would counsel a woman to have an adoption instead of an abortion." But he also "understands it is a personal and emotional decision that should ultimately be left up to the woman," according to a spokesperson.

That's a legitimate position, but it sure sounds like a fancy way of saying "pro-choice." And that's not what many Republican primary voters want to hear. Now that reporters have Giuliani's Planned Parenthood contributions to cite, he has less leeway to hedge on the issue.

Consider what Clemson University political science professor Dave Woodard told Jonathan Martin: "This isn't something like where your position is misunderstood. An overt act of giving money shows support for a position. That can't be a mistake or misinterpretation."