INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock refused to apologize Wednesday for saying that rape resulting in pregnancy 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 women 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 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, but did not cancel a television ad in which Romney endorses him. New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte canceled an event scheduled for Wednesday with Mourdock. 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.
Mourdock's rape comment seemed to fall a few steps short of Republican U.S. Rep. Todd Akin's comment earlier this summer that a woman's body would block against pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape," both in terms of the comment itself and its potential impact in the race.
National Republican and conservative groups, including Crossroads GPS, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Club for Growth continued their on-air assault against Donnelly Wednesday. A Democratic source tracking ad buys nationally said Wednesday there was no effort from Mourdock supporters to pull out of the state, as there was in Missouri, following Akin's comments.