INDIANAPOLIS — National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) is standing by his nominee in Indiana, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who said pregnancy that results from rape "is something God intended to happen" in the final Senate debate Tuesday night.
Mourdock was answering a question about abortion and explaining his position that he is against the procedure in all cases except when the life of the mother is at risk. He faces Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly, who is also anti-abortion-rights but believes in exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.
"Richard and I, along with millions of Americans – including even Joe Donnelly – believe that life is a gift from God," Cornyn said in a statement emailed to reporters this morning. "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."
Donnelly and his fellow Democrats seized on Mourdock's comments as soon as their final debate finished last night in New Albany, Ind. The Indiana race is highly competitive, and internal polls from both sides show a tied race. Roll Call rates it as a Tossup.
But not helping Cornyn's or Mourdock's efforts to quell the controversy is the fact that key Republicans are distancing themselves from the Senate nominee's statement. GOP Rep. Mike Pence, who is set to win the Indiana gubernatorial race next month, issued a statement this morning saying he strongly disagreed with Mourdock and calling on him to apologize. Last night, a spokeswoman for Mitt Romney told the Associated Press that the GOP presidential nominee does not agree with Mourdock's comments.
Last week, Romney recorded an advertisement for Mourdock promoting his candidacy.
GOP aides noted this morning that Donnelly supported legislation that withdrew funding for abortions for victims of rape and incest. Republicans also point out the northern Indiana Congressman was one of only a few Democrats who signed on to a controversial bill that initially included the term, "forcible rape." Donnelly's campaign later told reporters he was not aware of that specific language, which was eventually removed from the bill.
Meanwhile, Cornyn concluded with a parting shot at Donnelly.
“If you support Obamacare, government bailouts, reckless spending and higher taxes than you should vote for Joe Donnelly," Cornyn said. "But if you believe, as I do, that our government is too big, our taxes are too high, and we are passing an irresponsible debt onto future generations, than Richard Mourdock is your candidate to help get our country back on track."