WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney disavowed Senate candidate Richard Mourdock's comment that when a woman becomes pregnant during a rape 'that's something God intended,' but stood by his endorsement of the Indiana Republican.
Republicans in competitive Senate races as well as other GOP lawmakers quickly distanced themselves from Mourdock's remark that came just as polls showed Romney and the GOP cutting into President Barack Obama's substantial advantage with female voters. The Obama campaign and other Democrats called on Romney to withdraw his endorsement for Mourdock and pull his ad now airing in Indiana on behalf of the Senate candidate.
The Romney campaign made it clear it was standing with Mourdock and signaled the ad would continue to run.
'Governor Romney disagrees with Richard Mourdock, and Mr. Mourdock's comments do not reflect Governor Romney's views,' said spokeswoman Andrea Saul. 'We disagree on the policy regarding exceptions for rape and incest but still support him.'
The Obama campaign said the president found Mourdock's comments 'outrageous and demeaning to women' and said the assertions were '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.'
Said spokeswoman Jen Psaki: 'It is perplexing that he wouldn't demand to have that ad taken down.'
The National Republican Senatorial Committee stood by Mourdock, but GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire canceled a planned trip to campaign with the candidate Wednesday and issued a statement saying she disagreed with him. Rep. Mike Pence, who is running for governor in Indiana, also rejected the comment and urged Mourdock to apologize.
On Tuesday night, Mourdock was asked during the closing minutes of a debate whether abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or incest.
'I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that 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,' Mourdock said.
The state treasurer, who unseated six-term Sen. Richard Lugar in the GOP primary, is locked in a close race with Rep. Joe Donnelly.
After the debate, he sought to clarify his comments, issuing a statement saying, '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.'
Mourdock's comment recalled GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin's remark this summer about rape and pregnancy. Akin said in an August interview that women's bodies have ways of preventing pregnancy in cases of 'legitimate rape.' Republicans, led by Romney, called for Akin to abandon the race, but he refused and is pressing ahead against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.
It was unclear whether the self-inflicted political wounds by Mourdock and Akin decide their elections on Nov. 6 in Republican-leaning states. But the comments are clearly problematic for candidates like Brown, who is struggling to hold onto his seat against Democrat Elizabeth Warren.
'It's not what I believe,' Brown said following a campaign appearance in Boston. 'I am a pro-choice Republican and that's not what I believe and I disagree with what he said.'
Asked if he still supported Mourdock's candidacy, Brown replied: 'Listen, it's up to the people of Indiana, certainly.'
Former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, who faces Rep. Tammy Baldwin in their competitive Senate race, called Mourdock's comments 'really sad.'
'I've got a wife and two daughters and six granddaughters,' he said in an interview. 'Anything dealing with rape against women is uncalled for. Period. No tolerance whatsoever.'
In Nevada, Republican Sen. Dean Heller also disagreed with the comments from Mourdock. Heller is in a close race with Democrat Shelley Berkley.
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