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Bridget Johnson

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October 24, 2012 - 11:48 am

With a tight race for Sen. Richard Lugar’s (R-Ind.) seat in the balance, Republicans didn’t appear ready to do a quick disowning of Richard Mourdock as they did with Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.).

There was some GOP condemnation of the Indiana state treasurer, some support, and more silence toward the party’s Senate candidate in the wake of comments made at a Tuesday night debate.

Asked about abortion in the case of rape, Mourdock said, “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

The state Democratic Party quickly pushed out a video of the comment titled “Mourdock: God Intended Rape.” The Democrat running for the Lugar seat, Rep. Joe Donnelly, released his own statement: “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.”

By this morning, Dems were off and running with the comment.

“I think it’s clear that Mitt Romney, that many Republicans who are running office, including him — including Mr Mourdock, have very extreme positions on issues that women care deeply about in this country, and that if they have the opportunity to be partners in the White House and in the Senate, that that’s something women should have and will have concern about as they’re going to the voting booths,” Obama’s traveling campaign press secretary, Jen Psaki, told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Iowa.

The Democratic National Committee tried to spin the brewing scandal toward Mitt Romney, noting that Mourdock is the only Senate candidate the presidential hopeful has endorsed on camera this election cycle besides Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

“To think that we’ve had three incidents this year with candidates, all Republicans, all men talking about rape as either, is it legitimate rape? In this case, is it ordained? And Mr. Walsh recently coming out with yet another comment about rape. So I mean there’s a problem in the Republican Party,” Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) said on MSNBC.

In addition to Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment, she was referring to Pennsylvania Senate candidate Tom Smith, who made “less than artful” (in the words of his campaign) remarks about how pregnancy from rape is “similar” to when his daughter got pregnant out of wedlock, and Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) who, when asked about abortion if a woman’s “life is at issue,” said, “There is no such exception. With modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance.”

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee circulated an online petition calling on Romney to denounce Mourdock.

“Gov. Romney disagrees with Richard Mourdock, and Mr. Mourdock’s comments do not reflect Gov. Romney’s views,” Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement. “We disagree on the policy regarding exceptions for rape and incest but still support him.” The campaign has not asked Mourdock to pull a TV ad featuring Romney pitching for the Senate candidate.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) reportedly canceled plans to campaign with Mourdock. Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) quickly condemned the comments. Conservative Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), who’s running for governor, called on Mourdock to say sorry.

“I strongly disagree with the statement made by Richard Mourdock during last night’s Senate debate,” Pence said. “I urge him to apologize.”

Pence’s challenger, Democrat John R. Gregg, tried to spin the statement to questioning pro-life Pence’s own stances on abortion exemptions.

Mourdock called a news conference today to try to tamp down the outcry, stressing he believes “life itself is the greatest gift that God can give us” and that he abhors violence.

“I’m a much more humble person this morning, because so many people mistook, twisted, came to misunderstand the points that I was trying to make,” he said. “And if, because of the lack of clarity in my words, that they came away with an impression other than those that I stated a moment ago, that life is precious and that I abhor violence and I’m confident God abhors violence and rape, if they came away with any impression other than that, I truly regret it. I apologize if they came away.”

Unlike Akin, though, the National Republican Senatorial Committee supported Mourdock the morning after.

“Richard and I, along with millions of Americans – including even Joe Donnelly – believe that life is a gift from God.  To try and construe his words as anything other than a restatement of that belief is irresponsible and ridiculous.  In fact, 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,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said in an NRSC statement today.

Bridget Johnson is a career journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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