Romney has come under fire on the eve of the Republican straw poll in Iowa.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Mitt Romney appears to be pumping up the volume, just days before a crucial Republican straw poll in Iowa. The former Massachusetts governor tops the latest polls of Iowa Republicans, and possibly because of his poll numbers, Romney’s fending off new attacks on his evolution on abortion.
“I’m not here to discuss a religion,” said Romney on a conservative talk radio show in Des Moines Thursday morning. But when host Jan Michelson went to a commercial break, accusing Romney of distancing himself from his Mormon faith when it comes to abortion, things got heated.
"I don't like coming on the air and having you go after me and my church,” said Romney.
Michelson responded, saying, "I'm not going after your church; I agree with your church!"
"I'm not running as a Mormon, and I get a little tired of coming on a show like yours and having it all about Mormon,” Romney replied.
"See, I don't mind about it being all about that," Mickelson explained.
"I do. I do," responded Romney, who’s hoping to become the first Mormon elected President of the United States.
Romney’s also facing increased attacks from rival Republican White House hopefuls. Sam Brownback’s campaign’s been sending Iowa voters a taped message from the senator from Kansas on Romney’s abortion stance. Brownback stood by his message when questioned about it Sunday at a GOP presidential debate in Iowa, saying “there’s one word that describes that ad and its ‘truthful’.”
Romney fired back, saying “I get tired of people that are holier-than-thou because they’ve been pro-life longer than I have.”
But the fight between the two candidates continued on Monday, when Brownback appeared on Michelson’s talk radio program. Brownback told conservative listeners that "facts are very stubborn things. Governor Romney has been pro-choice. He's supported a pro-choice position."
Romney addressed his conversion on abortion during Sunday’s debate. When asked what was his greatest mistake, Romney said, “From a political standpoint and a personal standpoint, the greatest mistake was when I first ran for office, being deeply opposed to abortion but saying I support the current law, which was pro-choice and effectively a pro-choice position. That was just wrong.”
Romney’s built up a strong campaign operation in Iowa. Twenty-six percent of likely Republican caucus goers support Romney in an ABC News-Washington Post poll released Sunday. That’s twelve points ahead of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who’s in second place. “Romney has very strong coalitions with evangelicals, especially in Iowa and New Hampshire, and he’s done a good job reaching across all faiths and he’s a power to be reckoned with,” says non-aligned GOP strategist Leslie Sanchez.
All of this is playing out just days before the crucial Republican straw poll in Ames, Iowa this Saturday. Rivals Giuliani, Fred Thompson and John McCain are all skipping the event, and Romney is favored to score a major victory.
“What we know about the Iowa straw poll is that it attracts the most conservative elements of the Republican Party. The person that finishes first can really hold the mantle of being a consensus conservative, and Mitt Romney is expected to do very well there,” says CNN Political Analyst Amy Walter, who’s also Editor-in-Chief of the Political Hotline.
If Romney wins big on Saturday, it could help shield him, at least for now, from the attacks on his changing stance on abortion.
–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser