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John McCain and abortion: Did he hint at GOP shift?

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J. Scott Applewhite/AP

(Read caption) Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona finishes speaking at a press conference at the Capitol in Washington earlier this month.

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Perhaps the Republican pendulum is swinging back.

Two years ago, it seemed for a time that Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona might be swept away in the tea party tide, forcing him to tack far to the right to fend off a primary challenge. On Sunday, however, Senator McCain took a clear and controversial step back toward the political center, suggesting on Fox News that it was not his place to tell a woman whether or not it is her right to have an abortion.

Of course, McCain is more at liberty to make such statements because he is four years away from another election. Still, the comment – even by someone who has been historically centrist – suggests that some Republicans feel a new freedom from strict party orthodoxy following the disappointments of the Nov. 6 election.

Indeed, the comment came in response to a question about how Republicans should evolve after GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney lost by wide margins among Latinos, youth, and single women.

"As far as young women are concerned, absolutely. I don't think people like me – I can state my opinion on abortion. But other than that, leave the issue alone," he said. Probed further, he added, "I would allow people to have those opinions and respect those opinions. I'm proud of my pro-life position and record, but if someone disagrees with me, I respect your views."

Such sentiments come straight from the playbook of some Republican operatives, who say the November election showed that the party needs a makeover to expand its base of support beyond white males.

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