Rape storm mars notion of Republican unity

2012-08-23 08:11

Washington - The Republican national convention was planned as a festival of unity to formally anoint Mitt Romney as challenger to President Barack Obama, but instead it will open on Monday with the party in turmoil over a fellow Republican's startling remarks about abortion for victims of "legitimate rape".

The political heat over that issue deflects attention away from the struggling economic recovery from the Great Recession, the issue that Republicans see as their best chance to win the White House.

What's more, the perennially hot-button abortion issue has shined a light on differences between Romney and running mate Paul Ryan, who was slotted in as vice presidential candidate less than two weeks ago.

Romney does not oppose abortion in cases of rape and incest or if it will save the mother's life, while Ryan does oppose abortion in cases of rape and incest.

That divide, in turn, compounds the troubled Republican unity narrative and reflects the party's fundamental difficulties in trying to accommodate the ultra-conservative ideologies of an increasingly powerful base of evangelical Christians and low-tax, small-government tea party adherents.

The latest uproar began when Republican Congressman Todd Akin, who is running for a Senate seat from Missouri, set off an explosion with his response to a radio interviewer's question about abortion rights for rape victims.

Neck and neck

"It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," said Akin, who, like Ryan, opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest.

The Republican establishment — Romney and Ryan included — immediately denounced Akin's remarks and demanded he withdraw from the race.

Akin has refused, insisting he will stay in the contest against Senator Claire McCaskill, an endangered Democrat whose seat is seen as key to Republican hopes to gain majority control of the Senate.

With the 6 November election less than three months away, polls show Romney and President Barack Obama locked in a virtual tie heading into their party conventions. The Republicans gather Monday in Florida; the Democrats assemble eight days later in North Carolina.

Obama's hopes for re-election are feeling a heavy drag from the weak US economic recovery from the Great Recession and the near meltdown of the US financial system in late 2008, shortly before he won his first term in the White House. Unemployment remains stubbornly high at 8.3%.

The economy and jobs, voters tell pollsters, are the top issues in the election.

Ladies' man

Romney, who amassed a quarter-billion dollar fortune as leader of a private equity company, says his success in the world of big business is just the medicine needed to heal the ailing economy. Polls show more voters trust Romney's stewardship for revving up the mediocre recovery.

While polls show Romney and Obama tied overall, the latest Associated Press-GFK poll, however, shows Obama with a commanding lead as the candidate who better "understands the problems of people like you", 51% to 36% for Romney. Around 50% see him as a stronger leader than Romney.

Obama also has a big lead among women voters. They would be most dramatically affected if Republicans in Congress were able to pass a law making the procedure illegal.

In 1973, the US Supreme Court ruled that abortion was a legal right. Opponents have fought unsuccessfully ever since to overturn that ruling.

Beyond that, the heat in and growing power of the wing of the Republican party that would deny abortion to victims of rape and incest might drive away moderate voters who had been leaning toward Romney's message as a businessman who can fix the economy.

"There's a good chance that moderate voters who backed Romney on the economy and were willing to overlook the party's stand on social issues now will have a lot harder time voting Republican," said Melody Crowder-Meyer, a political scientist who studies voter attitudes at Sewanee: The University of the South.

Ryan takes the back seat

Crowder-Meyer also said that Akin's position on abortion draws attention to that of Ryan, who has co-sponsored legislation with the Missouri congressman to deny abortions to rape and incest victims.

That appeared to be worrying Ryan as well. On Ryan he said his views would take a back seat to Romney's.

Speaking to a Pennsylvania television station, the vice presidential candidate emphasised anew that Romney is at the top of the Republican ticket.

"I'm proud of my pro-life record. And I stand by my pro-life record in Congress. It's something I'm proud of. But Mitt Romney is the top of the ticket and Mitt Romney will be president and he will set the policy of the Romney administration," Ryan said.

That's a good stab at cementing party unity, but also leaves Romney open to questions about his changed position on abortion.

When he ran for governor of the politically moderate state of Massachusetts, Romney supported abortion rights. As the presidential candidate of an increasingly conservative Republican party, he doesn't.

Were that not trouble enough, the Republicans have to start worrying about the weather. Hurricane Isaac is crossing the Caribbean and forecasters say it has drawn a bead on Tampa, Florida. It might be arriving just as conventioneers begin descending on the city.

  • Werewabbit - 2012-08-23 09:00

    Its Funny, you can almost hear the American accent of the author.

  • diana.gill.18 - 2012-08-23 09:10

    Rednecks run the show. First thing which strikes my mind is how rape can be legitimate in any case? Second, why the innocent child must pay with his life for his so called father's crime? Third i do not agree with abortions in any case its a murder whatever you respond to that. It mustnt be allowed unless the ultrasound examination detects that irreversible deviations started to happen to a baby and the further life is more struggle and sufferings to him than life itself.

      Ouklip - 2012-08-23 09:22

      Not legitimate rape but real rape. Christian nuts discuss abortion and came up with this definition. If the girl gets pregnant she enjoyed the rape. If she did not enjoyed the rape her body would have shut off and no baby. Dont blame the Rednecks its the Religious nuts who scares me.

      diana.gill.18 - 2012-08-23 09:45

      I might be nuts but far from being religious and yet stay strongly against abortions. If you're expecting a healthy baby why not to give it a chance? Completely different story is when those "true" christians condemn usage of contraceptives declaring it a sin... What is a bigger sin to these idiots - to prevent a couple of sperm cells from reaching their destination or to destroy a newly formed human life and subject it to such tremendous pain and sufferings that if performed on a fully grown adult it would have been announced the most terrifying case in a history of crime?... Still rednecks dont make any sense to me

      Pulverturm - 2012-08-23 10:12

      Diana, so if I'm reading your comment correctly, you are saying that regardless of whether a woman is pregnant as a result of rape or not, she should be forced to carry the baby to term? So you are saying that she must carry the baby of the person who brutally violated her and broke her spirit, to term, and then have to look at it every day and on top of that be expected to love it! I think that's a little unfair!

      stirrer.stirrer - 2012-08-23 10:12

      Ouklip, WTF??? This is the most insane drivel I've ever seen on these forums! "Legitimate" rape is where the rape actually took place, as opposed to a man being accused of rape by a vindictive woman for whatever purpose, while no actual rape took place (It happens! And now I sit back and wait for vitriolic comments by feminists...)

      daniel.kagan.9 - 2012-08-23 12:40

      Hi Diana While I too do not neccesarily support abortion it is not my body that is being affected and I respectfully recognise the right of all women to have complete control over their bodies.

      diana.gill.18 - 2012-08-23 15:47

      I expected something like that especially from women who would prefer to get rid of the problem than to deal with the matter. I dont force anyone's body to carry a little criminal as you clearly call the innocent baby. Just reminds of a woman who i know very well and who has been raped as a young girl. Despite her family forcing her to go for abortion she decided to keep the baby. Now its a grown up man of 28, loving father of 2, happy husband and a wonderful family man who doesnt bear a slim resemblance of that bastard who violated his mother. Moreover after getting married she was struggling to have one more child with her husband but nothing helped. If years ago she agreed to what her family had suggested she would have remained childless for the rest of her life. Think for yourself ladies.

      LanfearM - 2012-08-27 10:26

      @ diana.gil.18 - you miss the point with your "happily ever after" story. That woman still had the *choice* whether she wanted to abort the baby of her rapist or not. Now I am not too sure about how things stand in SA, but I know that in the US there are 34 states where the rapist has the same visitation and "father" rights as any other male. So not only will rape victims be forced to carry their violator's child and raise it, they will have to look him in the face as well when he comes for a "visit"! It must not be against the law to abort the baby of incest or rape, that is ludicrous!

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