Richard Mourdock and Romney’s Ad: Will It Matter?
On Sunday, a feminist team (FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture) joined with the activist collective Luminous Intervention to project the words “Rape is Rape” on the U.S. Capitol building while highlighting survivor stories. On Monday, the Romney campaign released an ad in Indiana for Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, the Tea Party-backed state treasurer who unseated the incumbent Republican during the primary, trying to capitalize on the fact that Romney polls better than Mourdock and trying to save a seat that should be a Republican stronghold. On Tuesday night, during a debate between Mourdock, his Democratic rival Joe Donnelly, and the Libertarian candidate Andrew Horning, Mourdock was asked to explain why he supports banning abortion and does not support an exception for rape. His answer:
“I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that’s something God intended to happen.”
He later tried to distance himself from the implication that God intends rape to happen by claiming that anyone who thinks that God preordains it is “sick and twisted.” Many analysts are saying that this could be a fatal blow for him so close to the election, expecting a Todd Akin-like uproar. This could also be big news for the Senate, where the Democrats are looking to regain some seats, especially in places where a Tea Party candidate won against an established Republican incumbent in the primary.
But let’s take a second here and remember that Representative Joe Donnelly, who would be the one to win if Mourdock loses, is not exactly a shining beacon of women’s rights. He is a co-sponsor of the No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion of 2011, which made the notorious distinction between “rape” and “forcible rape” (otherwise known as “rape.”) Other co-sponsors of that bill include Todd Akin, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, and everyone’s favorite P90X superstar–current Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan. Later, Donnelly claimed that he didn’t know the forcible rape language had been included.
Over the summer, when Todd Akin offended women and rational people everywhere by claiming that a woman’s body had ways to prevent pregnancy in case of legitimate rape, it was easy for his GOP cronies to turn against him in the hopes of taking back that Senate seat. (Claire McCaskill, Todd Akin’s opponent, has a much stronger record on abortion and contraception than Donnelly and is widely expected to win re-election.) Mitt Romney called for Akin to drop out and let the Republicans run another candidate. But with less than two weeks to go till the election, the Republicans have a less clear path in this situation. Romney is trying to distance himself from the rape remarks without distancing himself from Mourdock. His campaign has released a statement claiming that he does not agree with his views, but still supports him and will not pull the ad.)
The National Republican Senatorial Committee has released a statement supporting his view that life begins with conception and is a gift no matter the method of conception, with the chair of the committee, Senator Cornyn of Texas, saying:
“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.”
The Democrats are attempting to capitalize on this latest development, with attacks going out from Obama’s campaign, National Democratic Senatorial Committee chair Senator Patty Murray of Washington, and the DNC, focusing on the links between Romney and Mourdock. Senator Murray’s statement:
“While Mitt Romney is rightly distancing himself from Richard Mourdock today, his ad endorsing Mourdock’s extreme candidacy continues to air in Indiana. If Mitt Romney is serious about repudiating these heinous views on rape, he will take down this ad immediately. National Republicans cannot paper over Richard Mourdock’s heinous views on rape. Enough is enough. The Republican Party needs to stop the coddling and take a stand against the horribly offensive and dangerous views of the Tea Party and their extreme candidates.”
Unfortunately, I don’t think this will have a noticeable effect on the election. While Romney’s wishy-washy, trying-to-please-both-sides response will undoubtedly not win him any friends, it is not at all a new story. The media is covering it, but how many average Americans will find a new sense of outrage? Romney’s M.O. in the endgame of the election is to keep his head down (he has no major interviews booked between now and Election Day), keep stumping, and hope he doesn’t do anything to ruin the momentum he picked up during debate season. He will try to hide from this and hope the narrative moves along before it does him too much damage, secure in the fact that anyone who is a women’s rights/social issues voter is probably not voting for him anyway. While the Democrats are right to jump on this, they cannot let this be their single attack in the days coming up to election day–not with the rampant instances of party-, race- and class-based voter suppression that have been sweeping across the country.
UPDATE: Mourdock held a press conference on Wednesday where he claimed that he finds it “regrettable” that someone could come away with the idea that he considers rape an act of God, but reaffirms his opposition to exceptions for rape and said that he “cannot apologize” for speaking in accordance with his faith. He also said that he believes this controversy is what’s wrong with Washington today.
What do you think? Do you think this will change the election? Do you think Romney made a mistake in refusing to pull the ad?
Written by Jess Mary Aloe
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