All three morning shows on Wednesday touted White House talking points linking Mitt Romney to a Republican Senate candidate in Indiana who, while speaking about "the horrible situation of rape," called life a "gift from God." Only one program, CBS This Morning, seemed to notice how closely this story mirrored Democratic spin.
As though he was referencing a connection to a criminal, former Democratic operative George Stephanopoulos intoned, "Mitt Romney catching some flak for his ties to a GOP Senate candidate making controversial comments about abortion and rape in a Tuesday debate." Trying to make trouble, reporter David Muir asserted that the GOP campaign is "trying to distance itself from a Senate candidate that Romney endorsed, did a TV ad for." Muir needled, "The [Romney] campaign did not say whether it would ask [Richard] Mourdock to take down this ad." CBS's Norah O'Donnell speculated that the remark could cost Republicans a shot at "control of the Senate." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
Already, CBS, NBC and ABC have devoted seven minutes and 35 seconds to the topic.
NBC's Today featured two news briefs and part of a full report on the subject. Natalie Morales identified Mourdock as "a Republican Senate candidate [Romney] endorsed."
Peter Alexander reminded, "It's the second time this year a Republican Senate candidate has made controversial comments about rape."
Only CBS This Morning highlighted how the story plays right into White House spin. Reporter Jeff Glor pointed out that "Democrats were quick to capitalize.
He explained: "Senior Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod tweeted, 'Mitt's man Mourdock apes Akin in Indiana debate reflecting a GOP that is way out of mainstream.'"
After essentially admitting that journalists were doing Obama's work for him, Glor made sure to play a clip of Todd Aiken, just to make the connection clear. He, too, noted Romney's endorsement of Mourdock.
A transcript of the October 24 CBS This Morning segment follows:
NORAH O’DONNELL: So, John [Dickerson], hang on just a moment because I want to get your reaction just a minute to this other big political story that’s making headlines this morning. Jeff Glor is here with the story about Indiana's Republican U.S. Senate candidate. He's in some hot water over comments he has made. Jeff, good morning.
JEFF GLOR: Norah, good morning to you. All three candidates in the race for Indiana’s open Senate seat oppose abortion but none of them went as far as the state's current treasurer last night.
RICHARD MOURDOCK: And I, too, certainly stand for life.
GLOR: The remark came during the end of Tuesday's final debate for Indiana's open senate seat when Richard Mourdock was asked about abortion.
MOURDOCK: I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.
GLOR: After the debate, Mourdock clarified his comments saying "God creates life and that was my point. God does not want rape and by no means was I suggesting that he does. Rape is a horrible thing and for anyone to twist my words otherwise is absurd and sick." But Democrats were quick to capitalize. Senior Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod tweeted, “Mitt's man Mourdock apes Akin in Indiana debate reflecting a GOP that is way out of mainstream." A not so subtle reminder of another comment made during the Missouri Senate race two months ago.
TODD AKIN: First of all, from what I understand from doctors that's really rare, if it's a legitimate rape the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.
GLOR: Just three days ago, Governor Romney endorsed Mourdock in a new ad.
MITT ROMNEY: This fall I'm supporting Richard Mourdock for Senate.
GLOR: But last night the campaign distanced itself. A statement released shortly after the debate said the governor, quote, "disagrees with Rirchard Mourdock's comments and they do not reflect his views." Mourdock defeated six-term Senator Richard Luger in a Republican primary earlier this year. Up until now he and his Democrat candidate Joe Donnelly had been locked in a very tight race. Norah.
O’DONNELL: Jeff Glor thank you. And I want to bring back in John Dickerson. So John this is one of those stories at the late stage of the campaign. Could it cost Republicans control of the Senate? I mean they’re so close to taking back the majority.
JOHN DICKERSON: Yeah, they need three or four seats depending on whether Mitt Romney wins and then brings in a Vice President who could break the tie in the Senate to win the majority. This has been a close race and so anything like this could knock it off stride. The question is whether there's a model here from taking Republican candidates and telling women voters that they're out of the mainstream on abortion. The Democrats used it effectively in 2010 in Colorado and in Las Vegas, or excuse me in Nevada. So that template worked in those cases, so Republicans have to be nervous it might work here but in the Akin race, while his comments in Missouri did make that race close, he’s been able to kind of recoup a little bit, but as you say it’s late in the race here so it may be hard for Mourdock to bounce back if this causes him trouble.