Just when Mitt Romney thought he had finally moved towards the middle on domestic and foreign policy, and on social issues, he received another reminder of how far the conservative bent has been a drag on his campaign. When asked about abortion during an Indiana Senate debate last night, Republican candidate Richard Mourdock declared he opposes aborting pregnancies conceived in rape because "it is something that God intended to happen."
Romney's spokesperson Andrea Saul quickly responded after the debate, attempting to set Romney apart from Mourdock's stances on reproductive rights, but pointed out that Romney still stands with 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.”
Last night, Mourdock felt compelled to explain to voters at home:
"I too stand for life. I know there are some who disagree and I respect their point of view but I believe life begins at conception. The only exception I have for to have an abortion is for the life of the mother. I just...I struggled with it myself for a long time but I came to realize that life is a gift from God and I think even when life begins at the horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."
Moving dangerougly close to Todd Akin territory, or the anti-abortion Missouri Senate candidate who asserted that women don't get pregnant from "legitimate rape." Interestingly enough, Mitt Romney's campaign ad endorsing Mourdock began running in Indiana on Tuesday.
Soon after the debate, Mourdock tried to clarify his comments, stating God does not intend rape.
"Are you trying to suggest that somehow I think God ordained or pre-ordained rape? No I don't believe that. Anyone who would suggest that is, that's a sick and twisted; no, no that's not even close to what I said."
He went further by posting his own block quote on his campaign website:
"God creates life, and that was my point. God does not want rape, and by no means was I suggesting that he does. Rape is a horrible thing, and for anyone to twist my words otherwise is absurd and sick."
Today, Mourdock apologized for the confusion surround "less than fully articulate use of words" but stood by his original remarks.
Mourdock started the press conference by stating that he abhors rape and meant only that God creates life. He continued, "It is a principle I have come to adopt. I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God..."
His comments spurred New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte to cancel her plan to campaign with Mourdock today. Ayotte's spokesman, Jeff Grappone, said that the senator disagrees with Mourdock's comments, and that his comments do not represent her views.
Since the Romney campaign's PR disaster with Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin asserting that women do not get pregnant from "legitimate rape," Romney has spent the last two months trying to reverse the notion that the Republican part is out of touch with reproductive rights. Quickly learning from past mistakes, the campaign quickly responded and reminded voters that Romney is anti-abortion but does support an exception for cases of rape and incest.
Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters today that Mourdock's comments are another red flag that the Republican party's extreme views on reproductive rights will revert the country back to a pre-Roe v. Wade era. Psaki also pointed out how "perplexing" it was that the Romney camp did not demand to take down his television ad supporting Mourdock.
"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...I think it is clear that Mitt Romney, that many Republicans who are running for office including him, including Mr. Murdock have very extreme positions on issue that women care deeply about in this country, that if they have the opportunity to be partners, in the White House and the Senate, then that is something that women should have, and I think will have, concern about as they are going to the voting booth."