Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin Are Not the Same

Both Senate candidates volunteered commentary on rape and abortion, but pundits note differences

Indiana GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock recently became the center of a major media firestorm.

Indiana GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock recently became the center of a major media firestorm.

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Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock told a debate audience Tuesday night that "even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."

"I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God," Mourdock said.

And the blow back began before the debate even ended.

"To say that it is God's will is such a misuse of religion," says Democratic pollster Celinda Lake.

Immediately, the party's standard bearer Mitt Romney, who appeared in an ad with Mourdock just hours earlier, condemned the comment.

Republican New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte canceled a campaign tour with Mourdock and others are distancing themselves.

[OPINION: Will Mourdock's Rape Comments Sink the GOP?]

The fallout over Mourdock's comment look like deja vu for the GOP.

This isn't the first time this election cycle a Republican senate candidate has walked into the dicey territory of rape and abortion.

Missouri Republican Senate hopeful Todd Akin fumbled in August when he said in cases of "legitimate rape, the female body has ways of try to shut that whole thing down."

But pundits say Mourdock is no Akin.

[RELATED: Mourdock Stands by Rape Comment]

Sure, both candidates made miscalculations, gaffes, politically risky comments about women's bodies, but Whit Ayres, the president of North Star Opinion Research, a GOP polling firm, says the missteps are vastly different contextually.

"They are both equally politically unwise. Political candidates need to stay away from biology in Akin's case and theology in Mourdock's case and stick to politics," Ayres says. "But the comments the two gentlemen made are very different."

While Akin's comment likely cost him the race for his Senate seat against Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskil and made it tougher for Republicans to take back the Senate, pundits say its less likely Mourdock's misstep will cost him that much.

[SEE ALSO: Todd Akin or The Onion? Docs Giving Abortions to Not-Pregnant Women]

Unlike Akin who is running against a pro-choice woman, Mourdock is matched up in Indiana against pro-life Democrat Joe Donnelly.

"This is much more limited in terms of its ability to become a major controversy," says GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak. "It will be a one or two day story."

Pundits say the another major difference between Mourdock and Akin's comments is that Akin's was downright untrue. There is no scientific evidence to support the assertion a woman's body can stop a pregnancy resulting from a rape.

[DEBATE: Will the New Focus on Abortion Help Democrats?]

Whereas Mourdock, however gracelessly, expounded upon a principle that has been widely accepted in evangelical, pro-life circles.

"No one wants to hear, especially someone who has been raped or knows someone has been raped, that God intended it," Mackowiak says. "Even though many faithful Christians do believe that."

Ayres says Mourdock's comment became a news story because of the Akin factor.

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"I don't know if Mourdock's comment would have elicited the attention that it did in the absence of Akin's comment," Ayres says. "Akin's comment primed people for other statements on abortion and life that seemed curious."

Mourdock has walked back his comment. He told reporters after the debate his position was misinterpreted. "What I said is God creates life. As a person of faith, I believe that."

Emily's List spokeswoman Jess McIntosh says Mourdock's comment just adds to an already long-list of misunderstandings Republicans have exhibited about women.

"Republicans have awful ideas about rape and what a woman ought to be able to do with her body," McIntosh says. "This guy is not an outlier."

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  • Lauren Fox is a political reporter for U.S. News & World Report. She can be reached at lfox@usnews.com or you can follow her on Twitter @foxreports.