Romney Clarifies Views on Abortion, Gay Rights in Iowa Debate (VIDEO)

Mitt Romney admitted he “changed his mind” on abortion in a televised GOP debate last night, adding that former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush had made similar conversions.

Fox News’ Chris Wallace, who co-moderated the debate held in Sioux City, Iowa, pressed Romney on a number of issues on which the candidate had been accused of changing his stance. Wallace’s most pointed prod questioned whether Romney’s positions are based on “principle or politics.”

Romney clarified his stance on abortion immediately.

"I changed my mind. I'm firmly pro-life. I've learned over time. Like Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush and others. My experience in life over [19] years has told me that sometimes I was wrong,” Romney said.

The former Massachusetts governor was asked to outline his stance on other controversial topics, including gay rights.

When Wallace accused Romney of flip-flopping his position on gay rights, the candidate took firm exception.

“I do not believe in discriminating against people based on their sexual orientation. Some people do,” Romney said, adding that he has never supported gay marriage.

Wallace read from a letter Romney sent to the Log Cabin Republicans in 1994 in which Romney, who was running against Ted Kennedy for a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts, expressed his desire for gay rights.

“I believe that the Clinton compromise [Don't Ask, Don't Tell] was a step in the right direction,” the letter said. “I am also convinced that it is the first of a number of steps that will ultimately lead gays and lesbians being able to serve openly and honestly in our nation's military. ... That goal will only be reached when preventing discrimination against gays and lesbians is a mainstream concern, which is a goal we share.”

Romney added in the letter that he believed he could do more to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights than Kennedy, a liberal Democrat.

Romney remained steadfast, saying he has never altered his views on LGBT rights.

There is conflicting analysis about the reaction to Romney’s answers – some say the audience was nonplussed, while others claim Romney fought himself out of a corner, receiving little help from the moderators.

A Rasmussen poll released Thursday showed Romney with 23 percent favorability with Iowa voters; Newt Gingrich held at 20 percent and Ron Paul at 18 percent.

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