Killing him with kindness

How -- and why -- the Log Cabin Republicans are poisoning the well for Mitt Romney.

Published October 4, 2007 3:38PM (EDT)

Looking for a presidential candidate who has fought "conservatives and religious extremists" for years? One who says that abortion should be "safe and legal in this country," and that we should "support and sustain" Roe v. Wade? One who opposed the gun lobby and has vowed that he doesn't want to return to the days of "Reagan-Bush"?

The Log Cabin Republicans have just the man for you: Mitt Romney.

In an ad they intend to run on Fox News, the Log Cabin Republicans use Romney sound bites from the 1990s to portray him as the kind of candidate a liberal Democrat would love -- which is to say, the kind of candidate most Republican primary voters would never support.

Why poison the primary well for Romney? Clue No. 1: Log Cabin spokesman Scott Tucker has blasted Romney on the group's blog for being "the only top-tier candidate still trotting out the push for a constitutional amendment" outlawing gay marriage. (Fred Thompson supports a slightly less draconian constitutional amendment.) Clue No. 2: The group has praised Rudy Giuliani in the past, including him in a group of "inclusive, big tent Republicans" who "represent the future of the Republican Party."

Time was, the Log Cabin Republicans might have included Romney in that group, too. The organization endorsed Romney when he ran for the U.S. Senate against Ted Kennedy in 1994. Thanking the group for its support, Romney vowed then to provide "more effective leadership" than Kennedy could "as we seek to establish full equality for for America's gay and lesbian citizens." Romney won the group's endorsement again as he ran for governor in 2002 after promising, in a breakfast meeting at a gay bar in Boston, that he'd keep his "head low" on the gay marriage issue.

But Romney went on to become a leader in the antimarriage fight -- a fact about which he boasts in a radio ad running in Iowa -- and, as the New York Sun reported earlier this year, his relationship with the Log Cabin Republicans has turned sour.

That seems to be an understatement.

"The flip-flops by Romney demonstrate a willingness to say or do anything," Log Cabin president Patrick Sammon told us this morning. "The only common thread here is ambition."

Update: The response from Romney spokesman Kevin Madden: "As Gov. Romney has repeatedly made clear, like many other Republicans including Ronald Reagan, he wasn't always pro-life. Gov. Romney has said he was wrong and hopes he never stops learning from his mistakes or trying to do what's right. This personal, negative attack was launched and paid for by a group recognized as having Mayor Giuliani as their 'favorite' candidate. Gov. Romney supports a federal marriage amendment and so it makes sense that a national gay rights group would attack him. The advertisement misrepresents Gov. Romney's courage to admit that he had been wrong on this issue and the fact that he is proud of his strong record of defending the sanctity of life."

By Michael Scherer

Michael Scherer is Salon's Washington correspondent. Read his other articles here.

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By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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