See Late Update below: John McCain withdraws Mourdock endorsement.
Mitt Romney has distanced himself from remarks on rape made by Richard Mourdock, but he's standing behind the beleaguered Republican candidate for Senate.
The Romney campaign released a statement to NBC News Wednesday afternoon confirming that the GOP presidential nominee continues to back Mourdock:
Gov. Romney disagrees with Richard Mourdock, and Mr.Mourdock's comments do not reflect Gov. Romney's views. We disagree on the policy regarding exceptions for rape and incest but still support him.
In describing his view on why abortion should not be allowed in cases of rape, Mourdock said during a debate Tuesday night that pregnancies resulting from rape are “something that God intended to happen.”
In addition to reaffirming his support for Mourdock, Romney also has so far declined to call on the Mourdock campaign to remove an ad (below) that stars the GOP presidential nominee endorsing the Indiana candidate. In the ad, Romney praises Mourdock’s promise to help him repeal Obamacare and to “stop the liberal Reid-Pelosi agenda.”
“With so much at stake, I hope you’ll join me in supporting Richard Mourdock for U.S. Senate,” Romney concludes in the ad.
Democrats have called on Romney to direct Mourdock to take the ad off the air.
In a Wednesday press conference, Mourdock sought to clarify his comments, saying he abhors “violence, any kind of sexual violence,” and that he is sure God does, too.
The Senate candidate also said he had not spoken to the Romney campaign.
Mourdock joins Rep. Todd Akin and Rep. Joe Walsh in a trio of 2012 Republican candidates who have made comments on abortion or rape that caused members of their own party to quickly condemn them. As the national party distanced itself from Akin after his “legitimate rape” comment, Romney called the congressman’s statement “inexcusable” and “wrong.”
Democrats wasted no time jumping on the latest GOP misstep, both by condemning the remarks and raising money off of them.
“Donate $5 or more now to ensure that the GOP's backwards views on women's rights don't become a reality,” read one fundraising email from the Democratic National Committee Wednesday.
The DNC also put together a video mocking Romney’s endorsement of Mourdock and a petition that supporters could sign to tell Romney to “pull down the ad.”
A spokeswoman for the Obama campaign weighed in, too, drawing a line between Democrats and Republicans on the topic.
“The president felt those comments were outrageous and demeaning to women,” Jen Psaki, traveling press secretary for the campaign, said Wednesday. “This is a reminder that a Republican Congress working with a Republican president Mitt Romney would [feel] that women should not be able to make choices about their own health care...This is an issue where Mitt Romney is starring in an ad for this senator, and it is perplexing that he wouldn’t demand to have that ad taken down.”
The latest Rasmussen poll shows Mourdock leading his Democratic opponent Joe Donnelly by five points. Democratic groups have bought another $1.6 million of airtime for Donnelly ads this week.
Late Update, 9:56 pm: Sen. John McCain, who campaigned for Mourdock last week, has withdrawn his endorsement until Mourdock apologizes, he told CNN's Anderson Cooper Wednesday night. The move is likely to up the pressure on Romney to do the same, or risk alienating swing voters.