[Ed. Note: There's a whole lot more videos from the first NH debate over at our sister site, VideoCafe]
The Willard campaign and various right-wingers are annoyed that, during the Republican debate Saturday night, the candidates were asked whether they think states should be able to ban contraception. In particular, Willard's people are ticked about this exchange:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Romney, do you believe that states have the right to ban contraception? Or is that trumped by a constitutional right to privacy?
ROMNEY: George, this is an unusual topic that you’re raising. States have a right to ban contraception? I can’t imagine a state banning contraception. I can’t imagine the circumstances where a state would want to do so, and if I were a governor of a state or...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the Supreme Court has ruled --
ROMNEY: ... or a -- or a legislature of a state -- I would totally and completely oppose any effort to ban contraception. So you’re asking -- given the fact that there’s no state that wants to do so, and I don’t know of any candidate that wants to do so, you’re asking could it constitutionally be done? We can ask our constitutionalist here.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I’m sure Congressman Paul...
ROMNEY: OK, come on -- come on back...
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... asking you, do you believe that states have that right or not?
ROMNEY: George, I -- I don’t know whether a state has a right to ban contraception. No state wants to.I mean, the idea of you putting forward things that states might want to do that no -- no state wants to do and asking me whether they could do it or not is kind of a silly thing, I think.
"Silly thing"? If it's so "silly" -- why do they keep bringing it up?
Rick Santorum, who placed a close second in the Iowa Caucuses, recently said:
“The state has a right to do that [ban contraception], I have never questioned that the state has a right to do that," he said. "It is not a constitutional right. The state has the right to pass whatever statutes they have. That's the thing I have said about the activism of the Supreme Court--they are creating rights, and it should be left up to the people to decide."
And Ron Paul, who's currently polling second in New Hampshire, has argued exactly the same thing.
Also, this isn't some esoteric legal abstraction. Two Southern states recently tried to ban certain forms of birth control.
At any rate, the Supreme Court case Romney's feigning ignorance about is Griswold v. Connecticut, and it served as a legal precedent for Roe. Which is why social conservatives like Santorum and Paul frequently attack it.
So why was Willard and Hugh Hewitt so irritated that George Stephanopoulos asked him that question?
Because Republicans want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to pander to the fundies, who are the shock troops of their party, but they know that New Hampshire is moderate on social issues -- and that this kind of talk is an absolute killer with independents nationally. In short, they know what fires up the snake handlers turns off everyone else -- including the Wall Street crowd.
So when they're backed into a corner, they strike this incredibly cowardly pose -- "States should absolutely have the right to do [x], but I don't think they should."
Funny how they don't take that approach to gay marriage, isn't it?