The Obama campaign on Wednesday accused Mitt Romney of trying to "cynically and dishonestly" hide his views on abortion rights after he told an Iowa newspaper that he would not act to restrict them if he wins the White House.
Stephanie Cutter, Obama’s deputy campaign manager, said that with 26 days left until the election, Romney has realized his positions "haven't been working for him" and is shifting his views to defeat the president.
"He's trying to cynically and dishonestly hide his real positions," Cutter said on a conference call with reporters, "but there's no hiding when you're president."
In a meeting with the Des Moines Register's editorial board on Tuesday, Romney said, "There's no legislation with regards to abortion that I'm familiar with that would become part of my agenda."
After the interview was released, Romney’s campaign emphasized that the former governor is "proudly pro-life and will be a pro-life president."
Team Obama, seeking to change the narrative after the president's lackluster debate performance, pounced on Romney’s abortion remark to accuse him of dishonesty — a theme they have tried to push for the last week on issues such as taxes and Medicare.
Cutter said Romney had always portrayed himself anti-abortion and was "trying to be that severely conservative candidate that he promised to be" during the GOP primaries.
“[His abortion stance is] bad for his presidential prospects and now he's trying to cover it up," Cutter said.
Romney's political history would not suggest that he supports wholesale changes to abortion law, but he came under pressure during the GOP primaries to take a harder line. He has promised to support fetal pain legislation, which bans abortion after 20 weeks.
The comments to the Des Moines Register suggest Romney is trying to appeal to centrists as he enters the home stretch of the presidential campaign.
Cutter said Romney is trying to "soften his image" not just with women but with all voters.
"We're not saying [Romney]’s changed his mind on these issues," she said. "We are saying he’s trying to cover up his beliefs.”
Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, was also on the Obama campaign call and said that Romney presidency would take us back, "not four years but 40 years."
Planned Parenthood's political arm has spent millions on television ads that slam Romney for vowing to end public funding for the group's clinics. One television spot featured a woman who claimed an early cancer diagnosis at Planned Parenthood saved her life.
Republicans broadly oppose federal funding for Planned Parenthood because the group provides abortion services. Federal law prohibits public money from funding those procedures.