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Women's Issues, Weather Crowd GOP Message

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison dismissed Democrats' charges that the GOP has engaged in a "war on women," despite polls that show her party and presumptive presidential candidate are lagging among female voters.

On the cusp of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., Republicans are seeking to focus on the economy, but instead abortion, women's health issues and even the weather dominated the narrative.

The recent comments of Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), who is running against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D), continued to dog the party. Akin, who opposes abortion rights including for victims of rape and incest, said last Sunday that women who are victims of "legitimate rape" have biological defenses against pregnancy. After a firestorm of controversy and calls for him to drop out of the race from all echelons of the Republican establishment, Akin apologized for the remarks, which have no basis in science. He has vowed, however, to stay in the race.

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said on CNN's "State of the Union" that he worried Akin could cost his party control of the Senate. "I think he should get out of the race," Priebus said, adding that Akin's comments were "biologically stupid."

Sen. John McCain (Ariz.,) put an exclamation point on the GOP establishment's feelings on Akin. "He would not be welcomed by Republicans in the United States Senate," the GOP's 2008 presidential standard-bearer said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Seeking to strike an inclusive tone within the GOP, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas) said her party, despite its drafted platform language that favors a ban on abortions, is open to people who see the issue differently. "Mothers and daughters can disagree on abortion," she said. "If you want to be a Republican, we welcome you."

But on ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos," Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, chairman of the GOP platform committee, said the party's plank affirms that Republicans are the "pro-life party."

"I don't think it's any surprise that the Republican Party is the party that embraces the dignity and sanctity of life," McDonnell said.

As for whether the party platform offers exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape, McDonnell said it did not get into those exceptions and that those details would be left up to Congress and the states to sort out. "The real point is we are affirming we are pro-life," he said.

It is an issue that Democrats are not likely to let go, particularly as they attempt to exploit the gender gap between the two presidential nominees.

McDonnell added that the focus on such specific issues as abortion was an attempt by the Obama administration to take the spotlight away from jobs and the economy.

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