In just a matter of hours Wednesday, Mitt Romney's campaign switched into defensive mode after their candidate was bombarded with criticism for comments made during an interview with the Ohio News Network. In his comments, Romney appeared to say he didn't support a proposed Republican amendment that would overturn President Obama's contraception mandate:
ONN reporter JIM HEATH: The issue of birth control, contraception, Blunt-Rubio is being debated, I believe, later this week. It deals with banning or allowing employers to ban providing female contraception. Have you taken a position on it? He (Santorum) said he was for that, we’ll talk about personhood in a second; but he’s for that, have you taken a position?
ROMNEY: “I’m not for the bill, but look, the idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a women, husband and wife, I’m not going there.”
The Romney camp immediately went into damage control mode, insisting that the former Massachusetts governor did, in fact, support the Rubio-Blunt amendment. Nevertheless, Romney's political foes didn't skip a beat.
On the stump in Georgia, Rick Santorum said whether they were a mistake or not, Romney's comments should not be overlooked: "I tell you, if I was asked a question like that, my gut reaction would be always, my gut reaction would be you stand for the first amendment. You stand for freedom of religion," he told a crowd of several hundred.
Likewise, the Obama campaign website released a statement claiming Romney's comments were an example of why "women don't trust him for a minute."
In a radio interview later in the day with the Howie Carr Show, Romney clarified his stance:
ROMNEY: I didn’t understand his question. Of course I support the Blunt Amendment. I thought he was talking about some state law that prevented people from getting contraception so I was simply misunderstood the question and of course I support the blunt amendment.
CARR: Okay, so that should be taken off the table. That's running around the world in 10 seconds, as you know.
ROMNEY: I simply misunderstood what he was talking about.
Also coming to Romney's aide in the misstep was the amendment's original sponsor, Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt. After the Senate voted to kill the GOP amendment, Blunt spoke to reporters. "I heard the question. The question was about as confusing and disjointed as you could be. He (Romney) quickly clarified that, so..." Blunt said, trailing off.
Despite the misstep, Romney is getting high marks from conservative Rep. Paul Ryan today. In an interview with Bloomberg TV Thursday, Ryan predicted that Romney is "on his way" to securing the GOP nomination:
He definitely has the wind behind his back going into Super Tuesday," Ryan said. "If he does really well on Super Tuesday, to me it looks like he is well on his way to the nomination. I would not say it is a done deal. I am neutral in this race, but he's racking up some pretty good wins. Michigan was a big test, he passed that test going into Super Tuesday. Super Tuesday is multiple states, a big organization pays off in multiple states. The candidate who has good organization usually does really well. He's well poised for that, I think.