TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Every now and then, an event awakens the ever-slumbering tensions between the Republican Party’s two core wings: social conservatives and corporate interests.
A Missouri congressman’s comment about rape and pregnancy was one such moment, and it came just as Republicans were hoping for a united front at their convention to nominate Mitt Romney for president.
A full-blown rupture — such as the one at the 1992 convention, when a defeated candidate declared a national “culture war” — seems unlikely. But even a modest squabble between key party factions might raise concerns in a tight presidential race.
Romney joined other mainstream Republicans in denouncing the Aug. 19 remarks by Rep. Todd Akin, the party’s Senate nominee in Missouri. Akin said rape victims can generally avoid pregnancy because “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
Romney called Akin’s comments “offensive and wrong.” He unsuccessfully urged Akin to quit the Senate race.
Like many other top Republicans, Romney stopped short of criticizing Akin’s stand on abortion, as opposed to his comments about rape and conception. Akin opposes abortion in all cases, including rape.
Romney would allow abortions in instances of rape and incest. He showed no interest, however, in picking a fight with his party’s most ardent abortion opponents, a crucial source of GOP votes and volunteers. And he downplayed the fact that his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, has often joined Akin in anti-abortion measures, including so
me that sought to differentiate between forcible and non-forcible rapes.
It’s hardly surprising that Romney, who’s running mainly on economic issues, is trying to maintain a quiet balance bet
ween fiscal and social conservatives. The Republican Party cannot win national elections without an alliance between the two groups.