BOSTON — U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Michael Capuano now says he would vote no on a healthcare overhaul in the Senate, if it still contains restrictions on abortion.
On Saturday, Capuano voted against the Stupak-Pitts amendment that would not allow federal insurance to provide coverage for abortion procedures, but then voted for the bill.
Monday, he sharply criticized one of his opponents, Attorney General Martha Coakley, for saying she would not have voted for the bill if it had the same restrictions. Just one day later, Capuano said that if the abortion provision makes it into the final bill, he would vote it down.
Capuano says his vote in the House Saturday was aimed at keeping the bill alive, and that he hopes U.S. Senators will strip the abortion provision from the bil.
“It appears as though he has made what is essentially an empty charge against her since he has the same position as she does,” WBUR Democratic political analyst Dan Payne said.
Though Payne said he felt Capuano’s remarks were more of a clarification than a flip-flop, he said it is “embarrassing” for Capuano, since he has now adopted the same position on a Senate vote as Coakley.
Capuano has been campaigning as a Washington “insider.” Payne said his nuanced explanation on the abortion issue will probably not hold up well with voters and that Capuano will have to explain himself over the next few weeks before the Dec. 8 primary.
It may be too early to tell whether this will make or break the short race, Payne said, since the candidates have less time to recover from real or perceived gaffes.
The issue has given Coakley the opportunity to demonstrate that she is strongly pro-choice, as most Massachusetts voters are, Payne said.
“I’d also expect that Coakley’s campaign — which had been looking fairly lethargic — will get an emotional boost from this controversy because she made a stand and she forced her main rival to change his position,” he said.
In the race overall, it could end up dividing the candidates into two camps: Capuano and Coakley on one side and venture capitalist Stephen Pagliuca and City Year co-founder Alan Khazei saying they would approve the legislation.
“In effect, what it will do is neutralize an opportunity that Capuano had created for himself in complaining about Martha Caoakley’s stand,” Payne said.