Gay Republicans Go After Mitt Romney's Flip-Flops

"For years, he's fought conservatives and religious extremists," the upbeat female narrator of a TV campaign ad approvingly begins. "Mitt Romney."

The audacious 30-second ad by the gay Log Cabin Republicans aired in high-stakes Iowa and nationally for two weeks on Fox News Channel. The ad uses the Republican presidential candidate himself to make the devastating case that he's a flip-flopper, the label that hobbled Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry in 2004.

In a video clip from his U.S. Senate run in 1994, Romney says, "I believe abortion should be safe and legal."

The narrator gushes that Romney opposed the gun lobby and "even Ronald Reagan."

"Look," Romney says in another video clip, "I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush. I'm not trying to return to Reagan-Bush."

For the social conservatives Romney is now wooing, the narrator's final salute sums up the ad's jarring message: "A record fighting the religious right, a pro-choice record, Massachusetts values: Mitt Romney."

Only then does the "paid for" disclaimer identify Log Cabin as the sponsor of the ad, which calculatingly doesn't point out Romney's U-turn on gay rights since the days he vowed he could do more for gays than Sen. Edward Kennedy.

By then, Log Cabin has planted the idea with social conservatives that they actually share something in common: They can't trust Mitt Romney.

The daredevil ad is the latest feat by the gay Republican group that's long tried to steer its party away from divisive social issues and toward a mix of fiscal conservatism and inclusive libertarianism. (See ad at logcabin.org.)

The ad, which may re-air or turn into a radio commercial, made a big news splash -- on TV's "Meet the Press" and "Hardball," and the front page of the conservative Washington Times.

Log Cabin first grabbed national attention in 1995, when the party's presidential front-runner accepted its $1,000 donation, returned it, then apologized for returning it.

In 2004, in an ingenious move, Log Cabin ran a $1 million TV ad campaign against amending the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage: Footage from the 2000 vice presidential debate showed Dick Cheney, loving dad of a lesbian daughter, making their argument that the states -- not the federal government -- should govern marriage.

The Romney flip-flop ad is Log Cabin's most daring high-wire act: If Romney become president, the group faces even further exile as the lavender sheep in the GOP family.

But if early voters decide Romney has a closet full of flip-flops and Log Cabin's ad gets remembered as helping to doom his campaign, it'll have succeeded in turning itself into a gay version of the Republican Party's widely feared Club for Growth, which bankrolls primary challengers if officeholders don't toe its anti-tax line. Plus, it also will have helped nominate a Republican less intent on courting social conservatives by making anti-gay promises.

"We are a Republican organization that cares about the future of our party," Log Cabin President Patrick Sammon says of the Romney ad. "The American people don't trust Massachusetts flip-floppers, whether they're Democrats or Republicans."

The Log Cabin Website shows a pair of elephants with their heads locked in battle. Thanks to this latest forceful push by Log Cabin, the inclusive elephant in the battle over the GOP's future direction has captured some political turf.

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