The national Republican freeze-out that greeted Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin after his “legitimate rape” comments in August will not be repeated in Indiana after GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock said “when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen” on a debate stage Tuesday night.
Mourdock will go forward into the final days of the Senate race with Mitt Romney and national Republicans in his corner, despite Democratic outrage. When it comes to Mourdock, the GOP is (for the most part) all-in.
There were a couple of prominent exceptions. Rep. Mike Pence, the Republican gubernatorial nominee in Indiana, condemned Mourdock’s comments and called on him to apologize.
“I strongly disagree with the statement made by Richard Mourdock during last night’s Senate debate,” Pence said in a statement. “I urge him to apologize.”
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), a top Romney supporter, canceled a scheduled appearance with Mourdock on the campaign trail in Indiana Wednesday after the remarks.
“She disagrees with Treasurer Mourdock’s comments,” an Ayotte spokesperson said, “which do not represent her views.”
But beyond those two bumps in the road for Mourdock, it was smooth sailing with Republicans Wednesday. Mitt Romney, who is currently starring in an ad running on Mourdock’s behalf statewide in Indiana, distanced himself from Mourdock’s line at the debate but stood by his full-throated endorsement.
“We disagree on the policy regarding exceptions for rape and incest but still support him,” a Romney spokesperson told the New York Observer.
This a far cry from how Romney reacted to Akin’s comments. In the days following “legitimate rape,” Romney joined with many establishment Republicans and called on Akin to drop out of the race.
The NRSC, which was quick to call on Akin to quit and has remained out of the race since his comments, dismissed the outrage at Mourdock from Democrats and women as politically-motivated. NRSC chair John Cornyn (TX) called the outrage “irresponsible and ridiculous.”
The NRSC did mention Akin, but only to tie him to Mourdock’s pro-life Democratic opponent, Joe Donnelly.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY), who stumped for Mourdock on Monday, also said politics were behind the outrage.
“We’re at the end of an election season here and I understand each side is looking to make hay out of every comment,” McConnell said, “but sharing the view of millions of Americans that life begins at conception is Richard’s deeply held personal belief that shouldn’t be misconstrued by partisans to imply something it does not.”
Perhaps bolstered by the strong support from Republicans, Mourdock was defiant in a press conference Wednesday, attacking his opponents for “twisting” his words.
“I spoke from my heart. For speaking from my heart, for speaking from the deepest level of my faith, I cannot apologize,” Mourdock said. “I would be less than faithful to my faith if I said anything other than life is precious, I believe it is a gift from God. I believe that God would never want anyone harmed, sexually abused, raped. I believe it’s wrong when people want to take what I said and twist it. And if in any way people came away with the wrong meaning, then for that I do apologize.”
Mourdock’s comments and Akin’s are substantively different, which likely affects the GOP reaction. At the heart of Akin’s “legitimate rape” remark was a suggestion that women often lie about being raped, and would continue to do so to obtain an abortion, as well as a laughably misguided view of basic biology. Mourdock’s comments were rooted in a more mainstream conservative view that all conceptions are equal and shouldn’t be treated differently because of their circumstances. Paul Ryan is an ardent proponent of this view.
Mourdock’s statement that a pregnancy caused by rape is God’s intention is an intense interpretation of that philosophy to say the least, and that’s what led to outrage. Locked in a neck-and-neck Senate race in Indiana, Republicans seem to think there’s more than enough ambiguity to stand by their nominee.