A top Republican has already jumped to Mourdock’s defense. National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Chair Sen. John Cornyn (TX), the Republican tasked with overseeing the GOP’s Senate elections strategy, immediately defended Mourdock in a statement on Wednesday morning:
“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.”
Two months ago, the NRSC disavowed Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin after he claimed “legitimate rape” does not lead to pregnancy. Cornyn was one of the first Republicans to condemn Akin, calling for him to exit. “Congressman Akin’s statements were wrong, offensive, and indefensible,” Cornyn said. “I recognize that this is a difficult time for him, but over the next twenty-four hours, Congressman Akin should carefully consider what is best for him, his family, the Republican Party, and the values that he cares about and has fought for throughout his career in public service.” However, weeks later, the NRSC quietly considered reentering the Missouri race. Cornyn said, “we hope Todd Akin wins in November.”
Mourdock, part of a growing number of Republicans hoping to deny abortion access to women, received a high-level endorsement from Mitt Romney earlier this week.
Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), the severely conservative congressman who is the GOP’s nominee for Indiana governor, parted ways with the NRSC’s decision to defend Mourdock: “I strongly disagree with the statement made by Richard Mourdock during last night’s Senate debate. I urge him to apologize.”
In a statement emailed to ThinkProgress, NARAL Pro-Choice America called on Romney to withdraw his endorsement of Mourdock: “Mr. Mourdock’s lack of compassion for rape survivors is callous, insulting, and completely out of touch,” NARAL president Nancy Keenan said. “What is equally disturbing is the fact that Gov. Romney has endorsed Mourdock and appeared in a TV ad on his behalf. Unless Romney takes back his endorsement, women voters should assume that he embraces these same extreme anti-choice views of Mr. Mourdock.”
Republican former New Jersey Governor and Bush EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman echoes the call for Romney to unendorse Mourdock: “Mourdock’s comments damage all Republicans and especially Romney as the fight for the woman’s vote intensifies. This could be a defining moment for Romney and he should immediately denounce both Mourdock and the comment.”
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) cancelled a trip to Indiana to campaign with Mourdock, although the Mourdock campaign claims she did so at their request.