Dems push hot-button social issues in campaign attack ads

When Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels warned politicians, back in 2010, to "call a truce" on social issues until the country's deeper economic troubles could be addressed many assumed he was talking to 2012 Republican primary contenders.

Daniels didn't address the advice to either party, but presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney seems to be heeding it. He's very rarely addressed the culture wars.

Just after President Obama publicly declared his support for gay marriage, Romney included a single line in an already-scheduled commencement address at Liberty University: "Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman."

This campaign season, it seems that Democrats are the ones pushing the social issues hot buttons. In addition to his proclamation in favor of same-sex marriage, the President's campaign is now also running attack ads on the subject of abortion. In the ads from both the Obama campaign and Planned Parenthood's Action Fund, Romney is accused of favoring a complete ban on abortion in all circumstances.

He actually supports exceptions in the case of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is threatened.

The Romney campaign has termed the ads "viciously negative and false" -- and nothing more than an attempt to divert attention from "disastrous" economic news. But the ads do contain quotes from Romney himself, vowing to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. The candidate apparently stands by that pledge.

Political analysts say social issue attack ads usually come much later in the campaign cycle, and may suggest that the Obama camp is struggling to find the right issue to widen the gap between the President and former governor.

"I think [abortion] is an issue that basically the Democrats are using as a wedge to try and mobilize women voters," says Republican strategist Ed Rollins. "It tells me they are trying to reinforce their own political base," Rollins says, adding, "This is mainly to get Democrats that may have been a little bit disaffected to come back."

Democratic strategist Lanny Davis, who believes many independent voters struggle with the abortion issue, warns that the ads could backfire. "If you are in the middle on the issue ... you have doubts about abortion," Davis says, adding, "That ad may end up actually offending the people who are in the middle, which is why it's a dangerous ad."