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Gingrich breaks with Romney on call for Akin to step aside

September 02, 2012|By Michael Finnegan
  • Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, seen at the Republican National Convention, defended Rep. Todd Akin's decision to continue running for the Senate.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, seen at the Republican National… (Tiffany Tompkins-Condi…)

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich broke with Mitt Romney and other Republican leaders Sunday by defending the right of Rep. Todd Akin to stay in the Missouri Senate race despite his controversial remarks on rape and pregnancy.

“I just think people ought to be a little cautious about saying the voters of Missouri don’t count,” Gingrich said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Akin, who won the Missouri Republican primary last month to challenge Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, has rejected calls by Romney and other top Republicans to step aside after his remark on “legitimate rape.” In an interview on whether abortion should be legal in cases of rape, Akin said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

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Republicans had made McCaskill a prime target in their effort to regain control of the Senate, but after a firestorm erupted over Akin’s remark, they all but gave up hope of capturing her seat. Akin’s remark came at a time when President Obama has been highlighting Romney’s stand on abortion in an effort to maintain his lead among female voters. Romney, a former supporter of abortion rights, now opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest or a threat to a mother’s life.

On “Meet the Press,” Gingrich said Republicans would be in a stronger position in the debate over abortion if the media gave more attention to what he described as the extremism of the Democratic Party’s stand on the issue.

“I think Todd Akin was the choice of the people of Missouri, and Todd Akin has publicly apologized,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich went on to condemn Republican strategist Karl Rove for joking to a crowd of party donors last week in Tampa, Fla., that if Akin were “found mysteriously murdered, don't look for my whereabouts.”

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“In the age of Gabby Giffords, it is not a joke to say that a member of Congress ought to get murdered,” Gingrich said, alluding to a gunman’s January 2011 shooting of Giffords, then an Arizona congresswoman, in a strip mall near Tuscon.

At the same time, Gingrich acknowledged that Rove had apologized. “It should remind us,” Gingrich said, “people make mistakes.”

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michael.finnegan@latimes.com

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