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Herman Cain leaves opening for GOP rivals on abortion

October 21, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli
(Elise Amendola / Associated…)

Reporting from Concord, N.H. — Rick Santorum used the occasion of his becoming an official candidate in the New Hampshire presidential primary to launch a broadside against Herman Cain, seizing on his recent comments about abortion in an effort to gain traction in the GOP race.

Speaking to reporters at the State House in Concord, Santorum professed to be "stunned" to learn this late in the presidential campaign that Cain was, as he put it, "pro-choice."

The former Pennsylvania senator was referring to Cain's interview with CNN's Piers Morgan earlier this week, in which he said he in fact opposed abortion. But when asked about cases of rape, Cain said that it was "not the government's role or anybody else's role to make that decision."

"It ultimately gets down to a choice that the family or that mother has to make," Cain said.

Santorum, defending New Hampshire's status as host of the first primary, said Cain was avoiding the state and therefore the tough questions about his record.

"Maybe viral candidates and virtual candidates can win," he said. "[But] one of the reasons I'm so passionate that Iowa and New Hampshire have the first two slots is that there is an expectation historically that candidates who want to get elected have to face the music of the people of this state, and be able to stand up and answer those questions and be held accountable."

As it happens, Cain played right into Santorum's argument by having his declaration of candidacy arrive at the secretary of state's office by mail Thursday and not in person, as he was doing.

"I think you look at some of the candidates, when they've been in that position to answer questions, they haven't stood up very well," he continued. "I guarantee you, had Herman been up here doing town hall meetings for a few months we'd know a lot more about him than we do now."

When Cain came to New Hampshire last week for a televised debate, it was his first visit in two months. Santorum said he's held more than 30 events here, and would continue to make his case to the voters.

"You may not agree with the positions I hold. But you know the positions I hold," he said.

Cain later sought to clarify his remarks, saying he misunderstood the question.

"My answer was focused on the role of the president. The president has no constitutional authority to order [abortion] by anyone," he said in an e-mailed statement.

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