IOWA CITY — Cedar Rapids Republican Kevin McCarville, a 60-year-old card-carrying member of anti-abortion advocacy group National Right to Life, considers himself adamantly "pro-life."
He told a Mitt Romney backer last year that he never could support the former Massachusetts governor's bid for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination because of Romney's perceived inconsistency on abortion.
Romney vowed to "preserve and protect a woman's right to choose," during his 2002 bid for governor, then wrote a 2005 op-ed for the Boston Globe, stating he was "pro-life" — one of many issue stances that his rivals have characterized as a flip-flop.
But on Friday, McCarville said he is now 90 percent sure he will caucus for Romney on Jan. 3.
"If he says he's pro-life now, and he supposedly had this epiphany while he was governor, and he said he has changed his mind," McCarville said, "I guess now I'm willing to accept that, because I do think he's the best person to address the overwhelming issue, which is the economy and jobs."
During a Republican presidential debate Thursday night in Sioux City, Romney acknowledged his one-time support for abortion and argued against the barrage of flip-flop accusations being fired from opponents on the left and right.
Romney said he took the helm in Massachusetts planning to "keep the laws as they exist in the state, and they were pro-choice laws, so effectively I was pro-choice."
The candidate now says he supports overturning Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in 1973.
"I had a bill come to my desk that didn't just keep the laws as they were but would have created new embryos for the purpose of destroying them," he said Thursday. "I studied it in some depth and concluded I simply could not sign on to take human life. I vetoed that bill."
The audience in the Sioux City Convention Center applauded his answer.
Former Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Steve Roberts, who said he still is deciding between Romney and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, said the evolution on abortion is not a concern for him.
"If you don't give anybody the right to change, to be persuaded by evidence on any issue . that's a problem," he said. "If somebody evolves in a positive way, they shouldn't be criticized for that."
On Thursday, former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum also challenged Romney on his support for gay rights, accusing him of signing same-sex marriage licenses.
In 2004, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was legal, and Romney said he abided by that decision while trying to get it overturned.
"I fought it every way I possibly could," he said.
Romney added that he always has opposed same-sex marriage and believes marriage should only be between a man and a woman.