Mitt Romney, accompanied by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, campaigns… (Charles Dharapak / Associated…)
As Mitt Romney's campaign took to the television airwaves to counter Republican attacks on his experience in private equity, his campaign released a new radio spot emphasizing his opposition to abortion in a targeted appeal to evangelicals who will play a key role in the South Carolina primary.
A day after stepping before the cameras to defend his record at Bain Capital, Romney defended "free enterprise" and focused on the jobs lost under President Obama during his remarks to a crowd of more than 500 people in Aiken, S.C.
"If you've been out of work for a long period of time, you know these numbers are not just statistics. These numbers are real people, and real suffering," Romney said in Aiken. President Obama, he said, is "going to say the economy is getting better. Thank heavens it's getting better. It's getting better not because of him; it's in spite of him and what he's done."
"By the way, I'm concerned about our poor in this country," the former Massachusetts governor added. "We have to make sure that the safety net for our poor is always strong and always able to help those that can't help themselves. I'm not terribly worried about the very wealthiest in our society -- they're doing just fine."
Romney did not explicitly mention the issue of abortion in Aiken on Friday. But he has put a greater emphasis on the word "life" in his speeches in South Carolina – repeating the word as many as three times at an event Wednesday evening.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has been running a television ad in South Carolina this week trying to raise questions about Romney's views, by charging that he pressed for abortion rights as governor of Massachusetts and that he had put "pro-abortion" judges on the bench.
Romney countered that assault with a radio ad Friday in which the narrator intones that "today Christian conservatives are supporting Mitt Romney because he shares their values: the sanctity of life, the sacredness of marriage and the importance of family."
Key conservative leaders including South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint and Mary Ann Glendon, the founder of Women Affirming Life, also defend Romney's bona fides in the ad. Glendon notes Romney's well-documented shift from being a supporter of abortion rights to an opponent. (Romney explained in a July 2005 op-ed in the Boston Globe that his views had evolved after he had learned more about embryonic stem cell research and cloning.).
"The pro-life movement has worked so hard for so many years in the effort to change people's hearts and minds on the life issues," Glendon says in the ad. "That like Ronald Reagan, like Henry Hyde, Mitt Romney should be welcomed as a great success story for the pro-life movement."
When asked by a reporter Thursday whether he was playing up that aspect of his record now that he has moved on from secular New Hampshire to socially conservative South Carolina, Romney referred to Gingrich's ads.
"I understand that there are some attack ads coming my way that question that," Romney told reporters in Greer. "And obviously it's important for me to remind people that I'm pro-life."
Though Romney rarely talked about the abortion issue in New Hampshire, he noted Thursday that his shift on that issue was well known.
"People in New Hampshire know extraordinarily well that I stood for life," he said. "It was very highly publicized in New England and particularly in the Boston papers and the Boston stations that I became pro-life, described why I became pro-life. I'm proud of that fact."