The Stump

Beware! Etch-A-Sketch Is Contagious

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The Washington Post’s Metro section, which despite depleted resources continues to do a bang-up job covering the D.C. region, had a sharp story on Sunday raising the terrifying prospect that Etch-a-Sketchism is a highly contagious disease. Apparently, for Republican politicians, mere contact with Mitt Romney is enough to lead them to start erasing and revising central elements of their political profile to make themselves palatable to the electorate at hand. Anita Kumar reports on the latest victim of the dread condition, Virginia governor Bob McDonnell:

As a legislator, attorney general and governor, Robert F. McDonnell has said he opposes abortion in all but one instance: if continuing the pregnancy would put the woman’s life in danger.

But McDonnell, a possible vice presidential candidate, recently said through his spokesman that he would also allow it in cases of rape or incest.

The statement has prompted many supporters and opponents to believe that he has modified one of his core political stances. Some suspect he has done so to improve his chances of being picked as a running mate for presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, whose own position on abortion has shifted over time but makes exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the woman.

“That shocks me,’’ said Olivia Gans, president of the Virginia Society for Human Life, which endorsed McDonnell for governor. “I have never heard him make those comments. It was certainly not his position when he ran for attorney general or governor.’’

No, it was not. As Kumar reports, “since McDonnell’s days as a delegate from Virginia Beach, countless news accounts have reported that he opposes abortion except when the woman’s life is in danger.” There was a 1999 questionnaire where McDonnell stated that he opposed abortion even in cases of rape and incest. In his run for governor in 2009, his position on abortion was repeatedly reported as such, with no protest from his campaign. Just last month, in a statement issued to The Post in response to criticism from Democrats of an abortion bill under debate in Richmond, McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said: “The governor’s position is he is pro-life with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.”

But now, Kumar reports, “Martin said the governor’s position has not changed. It has been misunderstood, he said, over the past two decades. He did not explain why McDonnell had not tried harder to correct the record if that was the case.”

What’s been misunderstood, apparently, is just how badly Bob McDonnell wants to be Mitt Romney’s running mate. The Centers for Disease Control better get on this outbreak fast. Epidemiologists warn that politicians from Trenton, Cincinnati, and Miami may be especially at risk.

Follow me on Twitter @AlecMacGillis

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