NEW YORK — Though President Obama and Mitt Romney rarely tackle the topic of abortion head-on on the stump, the void is being filled by rival advocacy groups targeting swing states with ads depicting one or the other candidate as an extremist on the divisive issue.
Obama, according to the National Right to Life Committee, is ‘‘the most proabortion president this country has ever seen.’’ Another antiabortion group, the Susan B. Anthony List, is running anti-Obama TV ads titled ‘‘Abortion Radical.’’
From the other side, groups supporting legal access to abortion, as well as the Obama campaign itself, depict Romney and his running mate, Representative Paul Ryan, as eager to ban most abortions as part of a Republican ‘‘war on women.’’ The GOP ticket ‘‘is extremely dangerous to women’s health,’’ says Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Numerous polls indicate that abortion and other hot-button social issues aren’t top priorities for most Americans as they worry about jobs and health care. Yet abortion is a visceral subject for some voters — and the extent to which they turn out to vote, and perhaps sway wavering acquaintances, could make a difference in tossup states.
There’s extra intensity this year because Obama and Romney — reflecting their party platforms — are so polarized in regard to abortion. Obama believes decisions about abortion should be left to women and their doctors. He affirmed this outlook during his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention, where the prime-time speakers included Keenan and Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Romney opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest, and threat to the mother’s life, and says the Supreme Court should repeal the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a nationwide right to abortion. He also would end federal aid to Planned Parenthood, which is a major provider of abortion and contraception.
‘‘There are such sharp differences between the two candidates, it’s not surprising the advocacy groups are so engaged,’’ said Mark Rozell, a political science professor at George Mason University in the swing state of Virginia.
Planned Parenthood, through its political action affiliates, has spent more on this election than any other — more than $12 million, with about half the money going for TV ads in Florida, Virginia, Ohio and other battleground states.
Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said a large chunk of the funds had been donated by new contributors eager to fight back against Republican efforts to restrict abortion at the state and federal level. ‘‘People have woken up and said, ‘Not only are they serious, but they’re close to imposing their will on the women of America,’ ’’ Laguens said.
Among the biggest spenders on the antiabortion side is the Susan B. Anthony List. Along with its political action committees, it has reported more than $3 million in expenditures, including TV ads in Ohio, Virginia, Florida, and Colorado.
The group’s president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, said the ads seek to depict Obama as an extremist in regard to abortion and to woo undecided, socially conservative Democrats, including Hispanics.
Salt Lake City newspaper endorses Obama while lambasting Romney
The Salt Lake Tribune endorsed President Obama for reelection Friday, with an editorial that was highly critical of Republican challenger Mitt Romney, who is as close to being a favorite son candidate from Utah, the historic and cultural center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as a nonresident can be.
The Tribune, published by MediaNews Group, criticized Romney’s “servile courtship of the Tea Party” to win his party’s nomination and called him “shameless” in pandering to various constituencies, terming him the GOP’s “shape-shifting nominee.”
“Romney has raised the most frequently asked question of the campaign: ‘Who is this guy, really, and what in the world does he truly believe?’ ” the editorial states. It also said he “has repeatedly refused to share specifics” of many of his proposals.
The endorsement begins, “Nowhere has Mitt Romney’s pursuit of the presidency been more warmly welcomed or closely followed than here in Utah. The Republican nominee’s political and religious pedigrees, his adeptly bipartisan governorship of a Democratic state, and his head for business and the bottom line all inspire admiration and hope in our largely Mormon, Republican, business-friendly state.” It praises him lavishly for his rescue of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake and described Romney as “the Beehive State’s favorite adopted son.”
The newspaper also endorsed Obama in 2008 over Republican rival John McCain.
In other endorsements, the Orlando Sentinel in Florida Friday backed Romney and the Denver Post in Colorado endorsed the president for reelection. Both are in tossup states.