ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.–After finishing up his formal debate prep before facing off against Joe Biden on Thursday, Paul Ryan denied that his running mate’s position on abortion had changed. “Our position’s unified,” said Ryan, outside the Old Farmer’s Creamery before heading to the airport to fly to Danville, Ky. “Our position is consistent and hasn’t changed.”
On Tuesday, Romney made headlines during a meeting with the Des Moines Register op-ed board when he said, “There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.”
Romney has consistently said during the campaign that he would end funding to Planned Parenthood as well as appoint anti-abortion judges who could overturn Roe v. Wade.
“Mitt Romney is proudly pro-life, and he will be a pro-life president,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said shortly after the comments were posted online Wednesday. She later added Romney “would of course support legislation aimed at providing greater protections for life.”
When asked directly outside the ice cream shop what his position on the issue was, Ryan said, ”I am sure you will find out in these debates.”
Ryan has said he believes all abortion should be illegal even in the case of rape and incest, while Romney has said previously he believes it should be legal in those cases. Ryan said when he was first selected that he didn’t mind his running mate’s less stringent views because it was a “step in the right direction.”
Ryan has said he is “proud” of his anti-abortion rights record and is one of the most active anti-abortion members of congress. He co-sponsored something called a “personhood” amendment during his last term, which under the proposed law would make terminating a pregnancy illegal, even in cases of rape.
When asked if Romney’s statement to the Register made him uncomfortable or upset he said, “No, No. Look, no positions have changed, our position is very consistent.”
The Obama campaign was quick to respond. “Congressman Ryan made it clear today: Mitt Romney is just as extreme on a woman’s right to choose as he’s always been,” spokeswoman Lis Smith wrote in a statement. “If he’s elected, he will restrict a woman’s right to choose. And there’s no better validator on this issue than Paul Ryan, who worked with Todd Akin to redefine rape and ban abortion, even in the case of rape and incest. This is one issue where it’s clear that women can’t trust Mitt Romney.”
Ryan will participate in the only vice presidential debate tomorrow night, and when asked if he has butterflies, he acknowledged that it’s a “nervous situation” and tried to tamp down expectations for himself.
“Joe Biden is one of the most experienced debaters we have in modern politics,” Ryan said while ordering two scoops of Moose Tracks ice cream. “But the Achilles heel he has is President Obama’s record, and I’m really looking forward to giving the American people a very clear choice.”
He denied being more concerned about one issue over another and said his final debate prep at the beautiful Vinoy Hotel here “went well.”
He wouldn’t engage in punditry, saying he wasn’t sure how much of an impact his debate will have on the race. But he did quip, referring to the media, “I’m sure you will debate that one endlessly.”
When asked about his running mate’s comments yesterday that Ryan had never debated before – despite debating his congressional opponents at least eight times — he said that he didn’t think Romney had seen his debates. But he ignored a follow-up question about whether he had ever spoken to his running mate about those debates.
While walking out of the ice cream shop, where he also bought ice cream for a reporter celebrating her birthday, he said he got a chance to read outside in the Florida sun and had been mountain biking. An aide clarified that took place during his last formal debate prep last week in Wintergreen, Va.
Besides Ryan’s sparring partner and Joe Biden stand-in, former solicitor general Ted Olson, Romney advisor Ed Gillespie, Romney communications director Gail Gitcho, Romney advisor Russ Schriefer, as well as former Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey (who played moderator ABC News’ Martha Raddatz) were all also on hand at The Vinoy.