Will moderator Candy Crowley “just add that last part” herself to audience questions?

By | October 16th, 2012

For Republicans worried that CNN’s Candy Crowley, moderator of tonight’s presidential debate, will take advantage of the opportunity to give oxygen to the Democrats’ theme that Republicans are “extreme” in their alleged restrictions on women’s reproductive choices, a recent video clip may not provide much comfort.

Ed Gillespie, a campaign adviser to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, appeared Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Crowley’s questions to Gillespie are not just about Romney’s view that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Or, a follow up to Gillespie’s statement that Romney views the abortion issue as one that should be resolved “by the people through their elected representatives.”

Instead, she adds her own twist, pivoting off Romney’s recent remarks in Iowa on the issue.

“But you don’t see a difference between him saying ‘Yes, I want Roe v. Wade overturned,’ and you can do that legislatively, if one wants - I’m adding that last part, I mean, just, you know - and him saying, ‘Well, I don’t actually see any legislation there that would become a part of my agenda.’ Those aren’t two different tones to you about an approach to abortion?”

You can read the entire transcript here.

If Crowley were to take that approach in tonight’s town hall debate on Long Island between Pres. Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney, this could force Romney not merely to explain himself, but to unwind the assumptions present in Crowley’s questions, as well.

Tonight’s questions are to be from town-hall attendees, who are “undecided” and selected by the Gallup organization.

Today, it was confirmed that Crowley will also be allowed to “facilitate discussion,” a role that both the Obama and Romney campaigns objected to in their debate contract.

In essence, the framing of the issues of abortion and contraception at tonight’s debate could itself be an advantage for Democrats, with Romney’s answer the focus of discussion on social media and post-debate spin, and fodder for follow-up commercials by the Obama campaign and its allies.

Since the President can’t run on the economy, and no longer enjoys an edge in foreign policy, exploitation of this issue may be the only closing argument left to his campaign.

That’s a point we’ve been making in recent weeks (“The Democrats’ cynical exploitation of women voters may not work“). The Obama campaign coalition sees independent, suburban women as a key demographic to help stave off defeat, and has decided to try to replicate on a national level a formula credited as working for them in the 2010 Colorado Senate race.

Recently, we’ve seen the mailer below from “Organizing for America Colorado, a project of the Colorado Democratic Party,” part of a barrage by Obama allies intended to soften up the ground in the last weeks of the election. It runs alongside a NARAL campaign, scheduled this month, targeting “Obama defectors,” making similar claims.

The mailer is a reference to Republican opposition to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate under ObamaCare, requiring that employers pay for health insurance that covers contraception. (A federal judge recently issued an injunction against that requirement in the case of a Colorado company, Hercules Industries.)

Leave aside the fact that only in Washington could permitting an employer to decide what coverage to offer be considered a “restriction.”

With little else to run on, late in the game, you go with what you know.