Doubling down on RomneyCare, confirming that he believes in climate change, now this. Say this for him: At least he’s not a total pander machine this time around. He just … seems to be in the grip of a political death wish. I can’t even explain this in terms of him wanting to stick by a position he espoused in the past in order to signal to voters that he’s “authentic” and won’t bend on his principles easily. His position, ostensibly, is that he’s pro-life. This makes him look like he’s inching back towards his pro-choice past. Is he in fact pandering to centrists here, with an eye already towards the general election, or what?

Coming soon from Pawlenty, presumably: A nasty tweet ripping Mitt for forever flip-flopping on abortion, followed by a whole lot of stammering at the next debate. Bachmann, however, just might lay him out.

The [Susan B. Anthony List] pledge also states that a candidate will, if elected president, nominate pro-life persons to “relevant Cabinet and Executive Branch positions, in particular the head of National Institutes of Health, the Department of Health & Human Services, and the Department of Justice.” Such a provision, Saul said, would restrict Romney’s ability to choose his Cabinet.

The Romney campaign would not discuss specific appointees. But among the high-profile names that Romney would be barred from picking for Attorney General, for example, would be former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, both of whom are pro-choice.

The third of four bullet points in the pledge is to “advance pro-life legislation to permanently end all taxpayer funding of abortion in all domestic and international spending programs, and defund Planned Parenthood and all other contractors and recipients of federal funds with affiliates that perform or fund abortions.”

This provision would negatively impact hospitals by stripping them of federal funding, Saul said. This could include veterans hospitals, she said.

“The pledge calls for legislation to strip taxpayer funding from thousands of health care facilities and hospitals around the country, and strictly limits the choices a President would have to appoint federal officials,” the Romney spokeswoman told HuffPost.

Every other candidate has signed except for Gary Johnson and Herman Cain(!). The part of the pledge dealing with cabinet members is stupid, I think, insofar as it’s something that Romney, as a famously experienced manager, can deal with himself during the appointment process. If he wants to name Giuliani as AG and has concerns about his willingness to enforce abortion laws, press him on it during the job interview. If Rudy has a moral objection, then he’s disqualified; if he doesn’t, let him serve so long as he carries out Romney’s policy preferences. Every president deals with underlings who disagree with some of their policies. The problem isn’t disagreement, it’s being unable to put that disagreement aside and be an effective administrator of the administration’s agenda. I’d bet cash money that Giuliani, rescued from political oblivion with a cabinet post, would happily play ball with a pro-life White House.

As for the other part of the pledge, which would cut off taxpayer money for any abortion provider or its affiliates, a bill in that vein is so unlikely to pass both houses that even the Susan B. Anthony List isn’t taking it seriously. Said one spokesman to HuffPo, “if anybody in Congress ended up introducing a bill that would do that I’m sure it would not get much support at all.” If Romney gets elected and the GOP takes back the Senate, does anyone seriously think the SBA List will expect them to defund veterans hospitals in the name of punishing abortion providers/affiliates? In fact, the Hyde Amendment already forbids taxpayer money for abortion procedures and the latest Defense appropriations bill specifically bans abortions in military base hospitals. Which is to say, I’m not sure why this provision, which is clearly aimed at Planned Parenthood, worries Team Mitt so much unless they’re leery of getting on the wrong side of PP before the election for whatever reason.

I don’t know. Maybe, per his new ad below, he’s counting on all of these issues to be swept away as voters concentrate more on the economy? Or maybe he thinks tea partiers will line up for him if he’s the nominee no matter what he says or does — which, according to Rasmussen’s new poll, might be true! Even a group like FreedomWorks that’s gunning for him in the primary seems increasingly resigned to backing him if he squeaks through. He’s playing a risky game, but he’ll be well positioned against Obama if he can make it to the general.