The Republican National Convention should be clear sailing for Mitt Romney. The GOP gathering is the party's chance to launch the good ship Romney on national TV. The addition of Rep. Paul Ryan to the ticket gave the Republicans a chance to focus the campaign on the economy, which is the issue voters care about most. But Hurricane Todd may blow the SS Romney/Ryan off course. Heading into the GOP convention, the focus of campaign 2012 is exactly where Republicans didn't want it to be. The spotlight is on abortion. They just can't help themselves.
Instead of making this campaign a referendum on an ailing economy, abortion became the focus of the campaign on the eve of the Republican conclave in Tampa. The weak economy is a room service fastball, right over the plate for the GOP. Abortion is a tough slider on the edge of the plate that Republicans just can't lay off. This week, the GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate in Missouri put both of his feet in his mouth, and the platform committee for the Republican National Convention put Mitt Romney's campaign in jeopardy.
Rep. Todd Akin set back Republican hopes to take control of the U.S. Senate when he tried to play doctor by declaring it impossible for victims of "legitimate" rape to become pregnant. This is not the first time that Akin fumbled the abortion ball. After campaigning throughout 2010 on the economy, the first and third bills that the GOP majority introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives in January 2011 were attempts to severely restrict abortion. The authors of the third bill were none other than Congressman Akin and his good buddy, the Republican vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan. The bill only allows abortions in case of "forcible rape," as if there were some other kind. I hope the moderator of the vice presidential debate in October asks Paul Ryan what kind of rape isn't "forcible." Inquiring minds want to know. President Barack Obama nailed it when he said "rape is rape."
Not to be outdone, the committee that writes the Republican Party platform then approved a plan that bans all abortions. You heard me right, all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest. That wasn't extreme enough though, the committee also included a "salute" to recent state proposals that require all women to have a ultrasound before making their choice. That sounds like big government and Big Brother to me.
Republicans will argue that the Democratic platform committee went to extremes when it endorsed gay marriage. The difference is half of the public supports gay marriage but only one in four Americans believe that abortions in cases of rape and incest should be illegal. The tempest in Tampa should be fun to watch.