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TAMPA, Fla. – Mitt Romney accused President Obama’s campaign of trying to link him to Rep. Todd Akin’s statements about rape and abortion, calling that a sad new low in the bitter election race while conceding that controversy over the remarks is hurting the Republican Party.
Romney’s comments were broadcast Sunday as Republicans poured into Florida prepared to cram four days of nominating convention events into three because of the threat caused by Tropical Storm Isaac.
Railing about a Democratic campaign they cast as harshly negative – as the Democrats say about the GOP – Romney and Republicans sought to reach out to female voters and Hispanics – two voting blocs that polls show favor Obama. Top Republicans said it was crucial that the party broaden its appeal for the November election and for longer-term political viability.
Akin is the GOP Missouri Senate candidate who said women’s bodies have ways of avoiding pregnancy from a “legitimate rape.” Romney and other GOP leaders have criticized those statements and urged Akin to drop out of the Senate race.
Asked in an interview, recorded earlier, on “Fox News Sunday” about what the questioner said were Obama campaign efforts to link Akin’s remarks to Romney and other Republicans, Romney said: “It really is sad, isn’t it, with all the issues that America faces, for the Obama campaign to continue to stoop to such a low level.”
Romney said the controversy over Akin “hurts our party, and I think is damaging to women.”
Obama hasn’t explicitly linked Romney to Akin, but he said in an interview with the Associated Press that the GOP candidate has locked himself into “extreme positions” on economic and social issues and would surely impose them if elected president.
The Democratic Party, in fundraising appeals, has sought to tie the Romney-Paul Ryan ticket to Akin.
“Now, Akin’s choice of words isn’t the real issue here. The real issue is a Republican Party – led by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan – whose policies on women and their health are dangerously wrong,” said a recent letter from Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic Party.
Akin has ignored calls from national GOP leaders to leave the race against incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. Republicans hope to pick off her seat and capture a Senate majority in the November elections.
Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Romney must effectively reach women and Hispanics if he is to oust Obama in the November election.
Former Florida GOP Gov. Jeb Bush had a similar message, saying on NBC, “Gov. Romney can make inroads if he focuses on how do we create a climate of job creation and economic growth.”
Bush, who has long urged his party to craft a more conciliatory message to Hispanics, added: “We’ve got to have a better tone going forward over the long haul for sure. You can’t ask people to join your cause and then send a signal that ‘You're really not wanted.’ It just doesn't work.”