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Will the real Mitt Romney please stand up?

The Republican presidential candidate's changing stance on abortion was the target of GOP rival Fred Thompson's premiere attack ad  and now two Republican interest groups are following suit.
/ Source: National Journal

It seems shaking the "flip-flopper" image may not be so easy for .

The Republican presidential candidate's changing stance on abortion was the target of GOP rival 's premiere attack ad during Wednesday night's , and now two Republican interest groups are following suit with ads attacking the former Massachusetts governor's record on taxes and abortion.

Using the now-familiar footage of Romney's 1994 Senate debate against Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., the abortion rights group Republican Majority for Choice will launch a TV spot on Sunday criticizing Romney for his changing positions on reproductive rights throughout his political career.

Jennifer Stockman, RMC co-chairwoman, said one reason the group chose to target Romney was that he actively sought its endorsement in 2002 prior to his Bay State gubernatorial run.

"We felt voters shouldn't be fooled. We were fooled in 2002. He assured us he was 100-percent pro-choice," Stockman said in an interview. "We couldn't risk him flipping again."

In addition to airing the spot in Iowa and New Hampshire, RMC will also run print ads in Sunday's Des Moines Register, Concord Monitor and New Hampshire Union Leader featuring a portion of Romney's 2002 RMC questionnaire in which he "responded affirmatively that he would support the right to choose."

Meanwhile, coining the phrase, "Mitt-Flop," pro-gay rights group Log Cabin Republicans is out with a radio ad in New Hampshire hitting Romney for tax policies he instituted as governor that the group claims hurt Granite State workers. The ad also notes that Romney opposed President Bush's tax cuts and compares him to another "Massachusetts flip-flopper" -- Sen. John Kerry (D), whose 2004 presidential campaign was plagued by similar accusations.

Although LCR previously ran a TV ad attacking Romney on abortion and gun rights, the pile-on from both groups this week marks a particularly negative turn in the GOP primary race, with Romney being the sole target of ire from interest groups on the airwaves thus far.

In an e-mail, Romney campaign spokesman Kevin Madden was quick to discount both ads, alleging that RMC "is attacking and distorting Governor Romney's position [and] is desperately trying to destroy the Republican Party's position on the issue of protecting life, while also supporting Mayor and his pro-choice position." Calling the LCR ad a "gross distortion of the governor's record," Madden also said that Romney "supports a federal marriage amendment and so it makes sense that a national gay rights group would attack him." Representatives from both RMC and LCR said their groups have declined to formally support any candidate in the primary election.

Keeping their heads above water
The growing desperation of the crowded field of presidential candidates and their willingness to start going negative as the primaries near can only be bad news for Giuliani (R) and (D), the front-runners of each race, who each released new ads this week on the economy.

Like all of his TV ads thus far, Giuliani's new spot highlights his record as mayor of New York City, arguing that he saved the city's imperiled economy by following conservative principles. The ad is a departure, however, in that Giuliani directly criticizes not just Clinton but all three top-tier Democrats: "Hillary Clinton, , -- here's a promise I assure you they'll keep. They are making the promise to raise taxes." Giuliani may have good reason to try and refocus his campaign on attacking Democrats, since so much of his own press this week has been negative.

Clinton, too, faces a tough fight for the nomination, particularly in Iowa, where Obama is catching up to her. In her new ad running in the Hawkeye State, Clinton echoes the fears many voters seem to have about the economy, warning that "we have big economic problems ahead" and "the middle class is getting slammed." She then lays out proposals such as reducing corporate tax breaks and supporting alternative energy -- surefire crowd pleasers at Democratic primary rallies. Though less overt than Giuliani's gleeful jabs at the Democrats, Clinton's ad also appears aimed at her primary opponents, as she asserts that "a lot of people talk about America's problems, but the next president has to be ready to solve them on Day One."