Though Michelle Obama never mentioned the word "abortion" — a topic that has stalked the GOP during the past week and threatens to slow the party’s momentum heading into next week’s convention — she stressed women should be able to make their own health-care choices during a speech Wednesday to a crowd of supporters in Florida.
“Because of this reform,” she said, referencing her husband’s Affordable Care Act, “insurance companies now have to cover basic preventative care. Things like contraception, cancer screenings, prenatal care, at no cost.”
The Fort Lauderdale crowd cheered as they did when she told them that the "president believes that women should be able to make our own choices about our healthcare.”
Her healthcare-heavy speech, peppered with references to women and seniors, comes as the GOP is attempting to shift the national conversation away from abortion and back to the economy.
Since adding Paul Ryan to his ticket, Mitt Romney has been fielding questions about his plans for Medicare, which Ryan’s budget proposes to restructure. Missouri GOP Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin then ignited a firestorm with a reference to “legitimate rape” during a conversation about abortion and pregnancy. The comments distracted attention from the Republican presidential campaign's core message and prompted calls within Akin's own party for him to step aside, which he refused.
A senior adviser to the Romney campaign told The New York Times Wednesday that the focus on abortion was "eating up a couple days," but said that women in the country were more interested in "how the hell they pay for gas in the tank," adding that "we can't get sidetracked by this."
Kerry Healey, another Romney campaign adviser told the Times that "every moment between now and November should be spent talking about the No. 1 issue for women and men, and that's the economy." She said "anything that distracts from that is not what we should be talking about."
Democrats have seized on the change in conversation, with Obama, the first lady and Joe Biden keeping the topics alive on the campaign trail Wednesday.
At a New York fundraiser, Obama wondered aloud how Akin, a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology “somehow missed science class,” by suggesting that victims of “legitimate rape” can prevent pregnancy.
He then said that Akin’s unpopular comments are “representative of the desire to go backwards instead of forwards and fight fights that we thought were settled 20 or 30 years ago.”
In recession-battered Michigan, Joe Biden talked about the “voucherization” of Medicare proposed under Ryan’s budget and argued that healthcare for senior citizens would become less affordable if Romney were in the White House.
Michelle Obama took a more positive route before the Fort Lauderdale crowd, many of whom were senior citizens, according to the Palm Beach Post. She told them that the President’s reform had lowered the cost of prescription medication for “our parents and our grandparents.”
Meanwhile, Ryan continued to field questions on abortion during an interview with a Pennsylvania TV station. "I stand by my pro-life record in Congress," he said. "It’s something I’m proud of.”
Romney avoided social issues on stops in Iowa and Arkansas, focusing more on unemployment and the national deficit, which he's expected to do again Thursday as he campaigns in Michigan alongside Ryan.