CNN's GUT CHECK for October 24, 2012
October 24th, 2012
05:22 PM ET
1 year ago

CNN's GUT CHECK for October 24, 2012

CNN's GUT CHECK | for October 24, 2012 | 5 p.m.
- n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle

BREAKING: CNN MOVES ITS ELECTORAL MAP, WINNOWS TOSS UP STATES TO EIGHT… The moves:

North Carolina goes from Toss Up to Lean Romney.
Indiana goes from Lean Romney to Solid Romney.
Missouri goes from Lean Romney to Solid Romney.

Make Your Own Map

TRAIL TRIVIA
(Answer below)
On this week in 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed the Tax Reform Act. What Democrat sponsored the bill in the House?

MARK (@PrestonCNN) & MICHELLE (@MJaconiCNN)
What caught our eye today in politics

If you asked us six months ago if abortion and rape would be scorching hot topics in two races that could determine control of the Senate, we would say no. And so would you.

There is no way anyone could have predicted that Rep. Todd Akin (R-Missouri) would suggest in an August interview that a woman’s biology would prevent a pregnancy if she was raped.

Nor would have we thought that Richard Mourdock would, in answering a question on abortion, put himself in a political jam by saying, “I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

For Akin, this sentence might very well cost him the election: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”

In Mourdock’s case, it might only be these eight words: “it is something that God intended to happen.”

It is important to note that Akin’s comments and Mourdock’s remarks are very different even if they are about the same subject.

Akin was making a scientific pronouncement that was not grounded in fact.

Mourdock was expressing a personal and religious belief that is held by many people on the divisive issue of abortion. Mourdock’s problem, in answering the question, is he gave some people the impression that he felt God somehow condoned the action of rape. At a news conference earlier today, Mourdock tried to clarify his answer.

“I am a much more humble person this morning because so many people mistook, twisted, came to misunderstand the points that I was trying to make,” he said. “If, because of the lack of clarity in my words, that they came away with an impression other than those that I stated a moment ago – that life is precious and that I abhor violence and I am confident that God abhors violence and rape – if they came away with any impression other than I truly regret it. I apologize that they came away, and I have certainly been humbled by the fact that so many people think that somehow was an interpretation.”

Mourdock’s dilemma is not just about potentially turning off women voters and undecideds, but also Republican leaders with their own political ambitions. Mitt Romney, who cut a commercial for Mourdock, distanced himself from Mourdock’s comments as did Rep. Mike Pence, who is likely to win the Indiana governor’s race next month.

However, in an important sign of support for Mourdock, the Romney campaign did not ask Mourdock to stop airing the ad in which Romney endorses Mourdock’s candidacy. And it’s notable that the National Republican Senatorial Committee is also standing by Mourdock.

Yet it was this statement from a rising GOP star that caught our eye: “Senator Ayotte’s trip to Indiana is canceled, and she is in New Hampshire today,” said Jeff Grappone, spokesman for New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte. “She disagrees with Treasurer Mourdock’s comments, which do not represent her views.”

Senate Republicans were on the cusp of taking back control of the Senate. Now, it is very likely Democrats will retain the Missouri Senate seat, while Indiana is a very different political situation and it remains to be seen what the political fall out is from Mourdock’s comments. The state is very pro-life, as is the Democratic candidate who is running against Mourdock, and the proximity to the election accelerates news cycles and damage control.

It is fair to say, though, that it is much more difficult for Republicans two weeks before Election Day to win back the Senate than it was six months ago.

the LEDE
Did you miss it?

Leading CNNPolitics: 'Tracker Mike' and other tales: Can Bachmann survive toughest test?
If America is polarized like never before, few congressional races represent this divide more than the battle going on here. I don't typically cover politics, but this one was too good to resist: a businessman who made millions by accommodating guests at his hotels versus a politician who Fox News host Sean Hannity has described as one of the women most feared by liberals in America. – Wayne Drash

Leading Drudge: He Knew
Officials at the White House and State Department were advised two hours after attackers assaulted the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11 that an Islamic militant group had claimed credit for the attack, official emails show. – Mark Hosenball from Reuters

Leading HuffPo: Romney Camp: The Ad Can Stay
Republicans scrambled Wednesday to respond to Republican Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock's assertion that even pregnancies caused by rape are intended by God, putting a harsh light on an issue that divides the party and has benefitted Democrats nationally and locally. – Sabrina Siddiqui and Michael McAuliff

Gut Check Full Service: Richard Mourdock’s Full Post-Debate Statement: "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.”
Richard Mourdock at an Indiana Senate debate on Tuesday: “I struggled with it myself for a long time, and I realized that life is a gift from God, and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something God intended to happen.”

Leading Politico: Presidential election: Meet the undecided voter
The presidential campaigns are hounding the holdouts — the sliver of the electorate still not sure which candidate will get their vote. The late-night comics and cable TV pundits are hounding them, too, saying they’re clueless, ill-informed and out of touch with the news. Their point: After four years, two conventions, four debates and millions in TV spots, how clueless do you have to be to call yourself “undecided”? – Ben White

Leading The New York Times: Standard of Living Is in the Shadows as Election Issue
Taxes and government spending. Health care. Immigration. Financial regulation. They are the issues that have dominated the political debate in recent years and have played a prominent role in this presidential campaign. But in many ways they have obscured what is arguably the nation’s biggest challenge: breaking out of a decade of income stagnation that has afflicted the middle class and the poor and exacerbated inequality. – David Leonhardt

Leading CNN Money: Candidates mum on fiscal cliff
Remember the fiscal cliff? It's the largest and most immediate domestic problem the next president will face. Yet it was barely mentioned during four presidential and vice presidential debates, and the candidates have said little about how they would address it. – Jeanne Sahadi

TRAIL MOMENTS
The political bites of the day

– Obama: Bush and Rove were smart about Latino outreach –
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA IN A ONCE OFF-THE-RECORD INTERVIEW WITH THE DES MOINES REGISTER, FROM YESTERDAY, RELEASED TODAY: “… I’m confident we’ll get done next year is immigration reform. And since this is off the record, I will just be very blunt. Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community. And this is a relatively new phenomenon. George Bush and Karl Rove were smart enough to understand the changing nature of America. And so I am fairly confident that they’re going to have a deep interest in getting that done. And I want to get it done because it’s the right thing to do and I've cared about this ever since I ran back in 2008.”

– Romney: All in for the family –
MITT ROMNEY AT A CAMPAIGN EVENT IN NEVADA: “I will do everything in my power to keep America strong with strong families, a strong economy that can provide for families, a strong military second to none in the world. I make that commitment to you and I need your commitment to me to get out and vote, to get your friends to get out and vote to make sure that on November 6th we take America in a new direction that is right for America's families. Thank you so very much.”

– Republicans respond, distance themselves from Mourdock –
ANDREA SAUL, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN SPOKESWOMAN, IN A WRITTEN PRESS STATEMENT: “Gov. Romney disagrees with Richard Mourdock, and Mr. Mourdock’s comments do not reflect Gov. Romney’s views. We disagree on the policy regarding exceptions for rape and incest but still support him.”
MIKE PENCE, INDIANA’S REPUBLICAN GOVERNOR, RESPONDS TO THE CONTROVERSY: “I strongly disagree with the statement made by Richard Mourdock during last night's Senate debate. I urge him to apologize.”
JEFF GRAPPONE, SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE’S SPOKESMAN, ON WHY THE SENATOR CANCELLED HER APPEARANCES WITH MOURDOCK: “Senator Ayotte’s trip to Indiana is canceled, and she is in New Hampshire today. She disagrees with Treasurer Mourdock’s comments, which do not represent her views.”

– Palin uses ‘shuck and jive’ in a post about Obama and Libya –
SARAH PALIN IN A POST ON HER FACEBOOK PAGE: “For days afterwards the White House and State Department led everyone to believe that the attack was the result of a spontaneous protest over an obscure YouTube video that had been uploaded months prior. Anywhere from 300 to 400 people from the administration and our intelligence community would have seen that email. Why the lies? Why the cover up? Why the dissembling about the cause of the murder of our ambassador on the anniversary of the worst terrorist attacks on American soil? We deserve answers to this. President Obama's shuck and jive shtick with these Benghazi lies must end.”

Gut Check Full Service… From Urban Dictionary.com: “To shuck and jive originally referred to the intentionally misleading words and actions that African-Americans would employ in order to deceive racist Euro-Americans in power, both during the period of slavery and afterwards. The expression was documented as being in wide usage in the 1920s, but may have originated much earlier.”

Gut Check Flashback… Press Secretary Jay Carney used the term at a White House briefing on September 7, 2011, after brining the wrong notebook to the podium: “Sorry. I'm going to shuck and jive! Time to shuck and jive.”

– Hit Me With Your Best Pun: Politics is a Battlefield –
CONAN O’BRIEN JOKES ABOUT THE DEBATE ON HIS LATE NIGHT TALK SHOW: “During last night's debate, President Obama told Mitt Romney the 1980's called and they want their foreign policy back. Yeah, Mitt Romney tried to deliver a comeback but then his beeper went off. Yeah. He had to fax Pat Benatar. I'm sorry. I lost them again.”

TOP TWEETS
What stopped us in 140 characters or less

TRIVIA ANSWER

On this week in history, Congress – with the urging of President Ronald Reagan – passed the Tax Reform Act of 1986, a bill that aimed to simplify the income tax code and broaden the base of tax payers by eliminating tax shelters.

The bill was a bipartisan effort. Reagan worked with Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri and Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey to get the measure through.

Even though Reagan is viewed as the archetypal Republican, it is highly unlikely the bill would pass Congress today. Though it did simplify the tax code and cut taxes for some Americans, it also raised corporate taxes.

In April of 2011, when Congress was at a near budget impasse, Gephardt reflected on his 1986 deal and the need to work together.

“You've got to be bipartisan, you've got to have a core group that really believes in this and is willing to do the heavy lifting to get it done," said Gephardt. "And I think it is important to try, if you can, to disassociate [tax reform] from the budget issue."

GUT CHECK WINNER’S CIRCLE
(why aren’t you in it)

Congratulations to Jonathan Gormley (@JonathanGormley) for correctly answered today’s Gut Check Trivia question.

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