Even before Todd Akin's odious remarks on abortion and rape victims, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and their advisers had to expect at least some questions about reproductive rights during the campaign. After Akin's comments, it must have been even clearer to Team Romney that they needed a clear, coherent line in response to inquiries.
Why, then, are they still struggling so badly? Consider, for example, Romney's interview with CBS News last night.
"My position has been clear throughout this campaign," Romney said. "I'm in favor of abortion being legal in the case of rape and incest, and the health and life of the mother."
Except, that's wrong in more ways than one. After the interview, Romney aides said the candidate misspoke and he doesn't support a "health" exemption, despite what he'd just told a national television audience. So much for "clarity."
Moreover, Romney's platform calls for a constitutional amendment that bans all abortions; Romney said he "absolutely" supports a "Personhood" measure that would ban all abortions and some forms of birth control; and in 2007, Romney boasted that that he'd be "delighted" to sign a bill that would no longer allow abortions "at all, period."
In the same interview, Romney said decisions about reproductive rights "will be made by the Supreme Court," adding, "The Democrats try and make this a political issue every four years, but this is a matter in the courts."
Mr. Romney, do you realize that if you're elected, you get to nominate new justices on the Supreme Court, or do you hope voters are unaware of this?
Romney's running mate appears to be struggling, too.
GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said Monday he supported removing the term "forcible rape" from his bill banning taxpayer funding for abortions, claiming it was included only as "stock language" and not to limit the definition of rape.
"Rape is rape, period," Ryan, a Wisconsin congressman, said in an interview with Fox News' Bret Baier. "This is language that was stock language used for lots of different bills, bills I didn't author, and that language was removed to be very clear and I agree with that. Removing that language so we are very clear. Rape is rape, period, end of story."
It's true that the "forcible rape" language was eventually removed from the bill Akin and Ryan co-sponsored, but it's a stretch to call this "stock language." It was a new effort on the part of the far-right to redefine rape as it relates to existing federal law. Ryan read the bill and quickly became an early co-sponsor -- before the controversial language was dropped.
Maybe he's embarrassed by his own legislation now, but Ryan can't shrug off his record that easily -- he backed the bill just last year.