From the RNC Podium: McCain Does Not Want to Overturn Roe–What?

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The McCain campaign welcomed delegates to Denver with a new ad Monday, showing Debra Bartoshevich, a self-described “proud Hillary Clinton Democrat,” announcing that she opposes Barack Obama and will vote for John McCain. To back up the message, Republicans arranged a press-conference in Denver Monday morning with Bartoshevich and other Clinton supporters, who are all now backing McCain.

Midway through the event, Bartoschevich was asked if she was concerned about McCain’s pro-life voting record. At a podium paid for by the Republican National Committee, with McCain aide Carly Fiorina standing nearby, Bartoschevich said this:

Going back to 1999, John McCain did an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle saying that overturning Roe v. Wade would not make any sense, because then women would have to have illegal abortions.

Was she going off message? Or are Republicans engaging in some cagey multi-messaging? After the event, an RNC spokesman reiterated that McCain has been very clear about his position on abortion this campaign cycle. And he has. He speaks about the life issue at almost every campaign event, and his campaign has aggressively courted evangelical voters by highlighting McCain’s consistent pro-life voting record, and his stated determination to appoint Supreme Court justices like Alito and Roberts. Just last week, in his weekly radio address, McCain hammered Obama on abortion. “I can assure you that if I am president, advancing the cause of life will not be above my pay grade,” he said.

But the quote Bartoschevich pointed to did, in fact, happen.

“I’d love to see a point where it is irrelevant, and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary,” McCain told the Chronicle in 1999. “But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations.”

Almost as soon as he said it, McCain’s aides were running away from the quote, and McCain has maintained since then that Roe v. Wade was a bad decision that should be overturned. He does not mince his words: “I do not support Roe versus Wade. It should be overturned,” McCain said during the South Carolina primaries. Back then, confusion over McCain’s abortion stance was a problem for the McCain campaign, a weapon used against him by conservatives who said he could not be trusted. But now, as the McCain campaign seeks to woo disaffected Clinton supporters, the campaign appears to be playing the other side of the coin. Either that, or the campaign’s new poster lady just veered way off message.