TAMPA, Fla. - Aaron Chandler, a 32-year-old marketing analyst from Kansas City, Mo., was sitting at a table of Ron Paul supporters here at a Missouri Republican delegation breakfast.
Clad in a pinstripe suit, punctuated by a blue striped tie and a "Goldwater in '64" button on his right lapel, Chandler talked about what's been on the minds of everyone in the Show Me State delegation lately: embattled Rep. Todd Akin (R), the party's nominee for Senate there.
With GOP convention activities postponed for a day because of Hurricane Isaac, Missourians have had a lot of time to discuss Akin, as well as the politics and science of abortion. And over cornflakes and whole fruit this morning, these delegates revealed just how difficult the Akin situation has become both for the state party and the national establishment.
"I don't think he really thought that through before he spoke," Chandler said of Akin's erroneous remark that women's bodies have the ability to shut down pregnancy in cases of what he termed "legitimate rape."
"I don't think it reflects on him as a person," Chandler said. "I think that he has had personal attacks because of it that he doesn't necessarily deserve. I think ultimately he's a good guy. He was just quoting a book that a doctor had written, and he did a bad job of paraphrasing that."
When asked if he believes in the science behind Akin's comments, Chandler said, "I do acknowledge that there's scientific evidence that if a woman is forcibly raped - physical assault - that the body has a natural defense mechanism that sometimes will prevent fertilization. ... There's evidence that shows that that is a possibility."
Though many Republicans are anti-abortion, the conversation about abortion in the case of rape and incest - and even ample evidence that pregnancy can and does occur from rape - has divided the party and detracted from attacks on President Barack Obama and the economy.
Ralph Munyan, 54, also from Kansas City, Mo., wore an "Akin for Senate" sticker on his left jacket pocket. He said it's a conversation starter and "that's part of the reason I wear it."
Munyan has just listened to Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) address his fellow delegates, and though he is "not always happy with Speaker Boehner," he said he appreciates his diplomacy and personal charm.
Munyan said Missourians should support their nominee, selected in a tough three-way primary earlier this month, because that's whom voters chose.
The awkwardness and the discontent among Missouri delegates, who lost an electoral vote in the latest round of the census, was palpable. A lot of Paul supporters lingered, and the reception for Josh Romney, one of presumptive GOP nominee's five sons, was lukewarm at best. Former Rick Santorum backers reluctantly donned "Romney-Ryan" stickers, because, in their words, it's better than the alternative: four more years of Obama and six more years of Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).