Analysis: Thoroughly Moderating Mitt

Analysis: Thoroughly Moderating Mitt

Oct. 10, 2012 -- On the eve of the highly-anticipated vice presidential debate in neighboring Kentucky, the state of Ohio is a hotbed of political activity today.

Exactly one week after his breakout debate performance in Denver, Mitt Romney is barnstorming the Buckeye State with a traveling companion -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Joined by Christie, as well as Ohio's own Sen. Rob Portman at a rally last night in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, Romney unveiled a new campaign slogan for the final push to Election Day.

"I've been watching some of the, President Obama's rallies, and they chant 'four more years, four more years,'" Romney told the crowd. "I think the right chant ought to be for them, 'Four more weeks, four more weeks!'"

But it wasn't the chant that made the biggest news. Instead, it was Romney's interview earlier in the day with the Des Moines Register in which he appeared to moderate his position on abortion rights legislation. "There's no legislation with regards to abortion that I'm familiar with that would become part of my agenda," Romney said, according to the Register.

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As ABC's Z. Byron Wolf points out, the comments mark a different tone for Romney, who has changed from being a supporter of abortion rights to opposing them during his political career. During the GOP primary, Romney said repeatedly that Roe vs. Wade should be overturned and that all funding for Planned Parenthood should be cut. He has also said he would prefer to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe vs. Wade.

The Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the political and advocacy arm of the abortion rights group, immediately accused Romney of "misleading the public about his intention to restrict safe and legal abortion."

"He's being dishonest about his intention to end access to safe and legal abortion," Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement. "Mitt Romney has been crystal clear that if he's elected President, he will work to overturn Roe v. Wade. Mitt Romney's views on women's health are far outside of the mainstream, and that's why he's trying to hide them in the last weeks until the election."

Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul clarified, "Mitt Romney is proudly pro-life, and he will be a pro-life president."

But Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith criticized Romney for being "willing to play politics with such important issues" and in a statement asked: "Did Mitt Romney Lie to the Des Moines Register Editorial Board About Abortion?"

And it's not just abortion. On a series of other issues, Romney has been moving to more moderate ground as Nov. 6 draws near. It's part of a broader strategy by the Romney campaign that includes a concerted effort to humanize him. The emotional stories about dying friends that he now weaves into his stump speech and his unscheduled stops along the campaign trail to chat with voters and even school children are all part of that plan.

As ABC News Political Director Amy Walter notes, Team Obama's strategy was to spend early and heavy on television ads defining Romney over the summer as unlikable and untrustworthy. By all accounts, it worked -- at least until now.

The question for the final month of the race is whether Romney's image is cast in stone or if voters are willing to take a second a look at him. Polls are showing an uptick in Romney's approval rating. And, one smart GOP strategist told Walter that voters are more skeptical of television ads than ever before, which gives Romney the chance to redefine himself on a debate stage in a way that he never could on TV.