After Anderson Cooper took his audience through some of Mitt Romney's revolving positions on the issue of abortion and access to contraception and the fact that there are some recent polls again showing that Mitt Romney is having trouble with women voters in swing states, Romney surrogate Bay Buchanan tied herself in knots trying to explain and defend Willard's flip flopping on the issue.
COOPER: A lot of ground to cover. Let's talk with senior Romney campaign adviser, Bay Buchanan, and Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, Democratic strategist, and a former Obama administration official.
Bay, first of all, do you buy this Gallup poll that says abortion is the number issue for women right now?
BAY BUCHANAN, SENIOR ADVISER TO MITT ROMNEY: No, not at all. In fact I saw polls again recently and have a look at them throughout the primary and the general election. The number one issue for women has always been jobs, the economy, and their concern for this future with respect to the economy. I have never seen anything that suggests anything else.
COOPER: So what do you make of this Gallup Poll? It's just --
BUCHANAN: Well, you know, I - I think it's very interesting because just look at the facts out there right now. The gender gap has just collapsed. Mitt Romney in all the polls, certainly Gallup, shows that it's a dead heat with women out there. Mitt Romney has done a remarkable job bringing them over to his side just in the last two, three weeks. And so why would that be, Anderson?
It's clear that they were looking for another option. Because in a 90-minute debate, they took a look and they've been watching the -- the president for four years. And his policies have failed and have hurt women, have hurt children. And so they've said, look, is there another option? They tuned in, they saw the governor and they said, my gosh, here is not only a good and decent man, somebody that offers us a brighter future for our family and our children. And they went with it.
COOPER: OK. But on this poll you're just saying it's flat-out wrong?
BUCHANAN: Well, I just think it's -- I just think it cannot be accurate. But let it --
BUCHANAN: Let them say what they want. But it's clear that we've moved women into the column under Mitt Romney. And that's the important thing.
COOPER: Got it.
BUCHANAN: And I believe it's because he offers a good and positive future for Americans.
COOPER: Neera, do you buy this poll? Do you believe this poll, this Gallup poll?
NEERA TANDEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Look, I don't know exactly how much abortion is playing in this election. I do think it has a higher importance to voters. I think it has a higher importance to women voters. Specifically, because the issue of contraception became such a flash point, became such a flash point to voters in the public dialogue and Republican primary.
I think a lot of women were shocked that issues like contraception were up for public debate. And so I think women are looking for these positions. And that's why I think Mitt Romney is hiding his positions on abortion and on contraception. He is simply wrong on Tuesday night when he told the American people he's for contraception coverage by employers.
That is -- that is false. That is not where he's been. And that's not where he will be. He's just saying that a few weeks before an election to try to -- try to do well by women voters. But I think they're going to see through that. And I think issues around choice are important. Both campaigns are spending money on. I think it is a problem for Mitt Romney that he's so far -- he has adopted such an extreme position on it.
COOPER: So, Bay, what was Mitt Romney saying at that debate? I mean, if he's saying he has no problems with contraception?
BUCHANAN: No, he's always taken the same position. All of what you've recorded out there makes -- looks as if it's confusing. But since he's been governor, and I am a very strong activist in the prolife movement. And the prolife movement is extremely happy with his position because it has been consistent since the day he converted when he was governor. He has -- his actions as governor were pro- life. Everything he said since then has been a strong prolife.
COOPER: But on -- but on contraception --
BUCHANAN: On contraception, he has never opposed. It's never even been an issue for anyone in politics for as long as I've been involved until George Stephanopoulos --
COOPER: What about the Blunt Amendment?
BUCHANAN: Well, the key here is he's not against contraception. It should be out there. And women should have access to it, but should the government fund it? That's the question. Should employers be forced to fund it for their employees? And if it's against their religious beliefs, obviously, they shouldn't be, because that would be a violation of the First Amendment.
So, of course, he's not for that. But should they have access to it, absolutely. And there's no effort by anyone I know to take that access away from them. It's the funding part that is a concern for us.
COOPER: Neera, what about that?
TANDEN: I mean, I think that this answer really demonstrates how all over the place they have been on this. Obviously, he is not going to ban contraception in America but what he will do is say that employers, they will take away the right today that women have today to get coverage from their employers. That is a right that's been established. It's one that women believe they should have.
And as Bay is saying, Mitt Romney thinks that's wrong. And he will take that away. And he -- when he looked into the camera on Tuesday night, he didn't want to tell the American women that he would do that. So he said, I support contraception. But on this issue of policy, he supports the Blunt Amendment. He supports taking away this protection that President Obama has provided and I think that's one of the distinctions in this election.
BUCHANAN: You know what's interesting, is that the liberals would actually think that as women across this country are facing such incredibly challenging times, nearly a half a million women losing jobs in the last four years under this president, watching their children graduate from college and not be able to find jobs, and to see loved ones suffering enormously under these economic policies of his, that they would suddenly think that the key issue was whether they can get government to fund their contraception.
That's more important than getting America back to work. I think American women have shown that is not the most important thing to them. They are bigger and stronger. They are more worried about making certain America gets back to work and can start taking care of themselves and their families.
COOPER: OK. I want Neera --
COOPER: I think Neera wants to be able to respond then we got to go.
TANDEN: With all due respect, Bay, there is a poll out, it's the Gallup poll. Anderson started with it. It says 38 percent of women care about this issue. You may say that they don't have a right to care about that but I think that I'm not going to patronize women that way. I'm going to say that what their issues -- what their concerns are ones that we should respect. And they are concerned about this because Republicans have made it an issue.
BUCHANAN: And that same poll --
TANDEN: Republicans have said in the primary -- with all due respect, Republicans said in the primary, Mitt Romney told people that he was going to overturn Roe v. Wade with his appointments to the Supreme Court. He made that pledge. He has made issues. He has said he is severely conservative president. He will be a severely conservative president. He's been a severely conservative governor. He has said on issue after issue that he is going to vote in line with the prolife movement. You've just said, he's prolife, you're prolife.
BUCHANAN: He is prolife, absolutely.
TANDEN: And he's -- and he -- and he has an agenda that will take away women's rights on contraception as well as reproductive health.
BUCHANAN: No. That has just never been an issue at all. And he has never said that. He will be prolife. He's taken that position. He'll be a prolife president.
COOPER: But you're saying it's not -- you're saying it's the funding --
BUCHANAN: It's the funding issue. You can't -- you can't --
COOPER: What Neera is saying that is taking away access for some women.
TANDEN: It's not even -- it's not even --
BUCHANAN: Which is ridiculous. He wouldn't even think about doing that. It's never happened. It's been out there since 1950s. And nobody is suggesting that anyone take a woman's right to access to contraception away.
COOPER: OK, we --
BUCHANAN: That's completely false. What we're talking about. Who funds it, and should we require --
COOPER: We got to go.
BUCHANAN: -- employers to do so or should they do it whether they would like to or not? It's their choice.
TANDEN: He would overturn -- he would overturn Roe v. Wade. He would take away access --
BUCHANAN: He doesn't have authority to do so.
BUCHANAN: The Supreme Court is the only one that can do that.
COOPER: I appreciate -- all right. Bay Buchanan, thank you. Neera Tanden, thank you very much.
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