The National Republican Senatorial Committee, whose mission is to elect Republicans to the U.S. Senate, is in the odd position Wednesday of attacking Democrat Joe Donnelly in the Indiana Senate race by associating him with Todd Akin, the GOP Senate nominee in Missouri.
In a strategy that feels like it could come out of a Democratic communications shop, the NRSC sent an email to reporters Wednesday morning that put Donnelly and Akin’s name in bold print, highlighting an AP story from August — the wake of Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments — that pointed out Donnelly co-sponsored HR 3, the so-called “forcible rape” law.
The NRSC was reacting to the big news coming out of Tuesday night’s debate in the Indiana Senate race, where Republican nominee Richard Mourdock said that he believed that pregnancies caused by rape “is something that God intended.”
After the debate, Donnelly pounced on Mourdock’s comments. “The God I believe in and the God I know most Hoosiers believe in, does not intend for rape to happen — ever,” Donnelly said in a statement. “What Mr. Mourdock said is shocking, and it is stunning that he would be so disrespectful to survivors of rape.”
The NRSC’s email seems to be an effort to blunt Donnelly’s offensive and portray him as no more moderate on abortion than Mourdock. However, Mourdock’s position on rape exceptions is different from Donnelly’s, who supports exceptions for rape and incest victims.
By bringing up Akin to attack Donnelly’s outrage over Mourdock’s comments, the NRSC may also be reminding voters of vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s votes for HR 3. Ryan shares Mourdock’s and Akin’s view that victims of rape and incest should not be exempt from abortion bans and was forced to distance himself from HR 3’s “forcible rape” language back in August in much the same way Donnelly has.
“This is language that was stock language used for lots of different bills — bills I didn’t author — and that language was removed, to be very clear, and I agree with that, removing that language so we are very clear,” Ryan told Fox News. “Rape is rape, period. End of story.”
Rather than distance itself from Mourdock the way it did with Akin, the NRSC is standing firm behind Mourdock. NRSC Chairman John Cornyn, the Republican senator from Texas, dismissed the outrage over Mourdock’s comments as “irresponsible and ridiculous.”
“Rather than condemning him for his position, as some in his party have when it’s come to Republicans, I commend Congressman Donnelly for his support of life,” Cornyn said.
Meanwhile, Mourdock has tried to clarify his remarks while a host of other Republicans have repudiated them, including the campaign of Mitt Romney, who stars in a TV ad for Mourdock running statewide in Indiana.
Donnelly’s pro-life record certainly has drawn criticism from many of the groups that criticize Akin. NARAL’s website lists the Democratic congressman as “anti-choice” (NARAL gives him a score of 20 out of 100 on its 2011 congressional scorecard) and notes his votes to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood as well as for a bill criticized for making it legal for hospitals to refuse to perform emergency abortions, even if the mother’s life was at stake.
After Akin’s comments, Donnelly condemned him. His campaign said Donnelly never intended to redefine rape when he voted for the HR 3 (the “forcible rape” bill) along with Akin.
“Joe is pro-life and supports legislation to ensure that no federal dollars go toward funding abortion-related services,” a Donnelly spokesperson told the AP. “That was the original intention of the bill, not to redefine rape.”