INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock refused to apologize Wednesday for saying that when pregnancy results from rape then that is "something God intended."
State Republicans and a few congressional leaders defended Mourdock, whose prospects of winning the seat long held by the GOP are unclear.
But with female voters critical in the tight presidential race and other stalemated contests two weeks before Election Day, many in the party distanced themselves with varying levels of abruptness and clarity, underscoring the difficult nature of the uproar even among other anti-abortion Republicans.
Indiana gubernatorial candidate Mike Pence sought an apology from Murdock. Indiana House candidate Jackie Walorski, meanwhile, issued three statements Wednesday: two disagreeing with Mourdock and one suggesting that Republicans get back to talking about President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.
That didn't happen Wednesday as the issue ricocheted around the nation's political landscape, from the presidential contest on down.
Mourdock, meanwhile, dove into damage control Wednesday, explaining that he abhors violence of any kind and regrets that some may have misconstrued and "twisted" his comments. But he stood behind the original remark in Tuesday night's debate.
"I spoke from my heart. And speaking from my heart, speaking from the deepest level of my faith, I would not apologize. I would be less than faithful if I said anything other than life is precious, I believe it's a gift from God," Mourdock said at a news conference Wednesday.
GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's campaign quickly said he disagrees with Mourdock's initial remarks, but Romney did not cancel a television ad in which he endorses the Senate candidate. New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte canceled an event scheduled for Wednesday with Mourdock. Arizona Sen. John McCain, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, told CNN that his continued support of Mourdock "depends on what he does."
McCain said he wants to see "if he apologizes and says he misspoke and he was wrong and asks people to forgive him. It's when you don't own up to it that people will not believe in you."
Mourdock aides said the McCain spot was taped before Mourdock's Wednesday press conference. But Mourdock never apologized for those comments.
But Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and Texas Sen. John Cornyn issued statements of support, acutely aware that Mourdock's fortunes in Indiana could hold the key to winning control of the Senate. Republicans must gain four seats if President Barack Obama is re-elected, three if Romney prevails.
In Indiana, it wasn't supposed to be this way. Mourdock's upset of veteran Republican Sen. Richard Lugar in the May primary created an opening for Democrats looking to fight for what would have otherwise been a safe GOP seat. The surprisingly close race between Mourdock and Democrat Joe Donnelly has spurred national Republicans to send more money and national stars to Indiana recently in an attempt to hold the seat.
Although Ayotte cancelled plans to headline a fundraiser for Mourdock in Indianapolis, the Indianapolis Republican Women Club pushed on with the fundraiser. Speaking inside the closed-door event, Indiana Republican Party Chairman Eric Holcomb declined to comment on Mourdock's explanation Wednesday and said the loss of Ayotte from the trail Wednesday would not slow their efforts to elect Mourdock.