GREENFIELD, Ind. (AP) - GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock said Monday he can't "unring the bell" on comments he made last week about rape, and he's joining a national Republican effort to shift discussion away from his remarks.
"You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube, you can't unring the bell," Mourdock said Monday. "I apologize that anyone might have been offended by it personally, and we've moved on and are talking about what people are talking about."
Mourdock also told reporters he was surprised by the reaction to his remarks after last week's Senate debate and didn't realize he had said anything controversial.
"When I walked off the stage, I expected -- walking to my green room -- high-fives, because I had no idea that the statement that I made would possibly go a direction that it went," he said.
The direction that statement took last week knocked not only his campaign off track, but provided ammunition for national Democrats looking for women voters in key swing states. The Mourdock campaign has used the Democratic responses in fundraising appeals to supporters, while also arguing federal spending and the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya are more pertinent issues.
Top Republicans working the Sunday talk show circuit attempted to right the ship this weekend, answering questions about Mourdock's comments at times with statements about the attack. Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, one of the tea party's biggest winners in 2010, told Fox News Sunday that abortion is not an issue voters are talking about.
Mourdock opened his talk with a group of about two dozen Republican and tea party supporters at Carol's Cornerstone Cafe in Greenfield, Ind., with a request that the U.S. Senate investigate the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Libya that killed a U.S. diplomat. He later noted that it had been three years and six months since the U.S. Senate had passed a federal budget. Mourdock did not, however, talk about his comments in last week's Indiana Senate debate.
Janice Silvey, Hancock County Republican Chairman, and John Patton, a Greenfield city councilman, said they did not think the abortion question was playing with voters in this town just east of Indianapolis.
Carolyn Flynn, a Republican running for Mt. Vernon school board, said she understood what Mourdock meant to say, but noted that it solidified her four children's votes for Libertarian candidate Andrew Horning.
Her kids, aged 19-29, told her: "`I'm not going to vote for him because of that comment,' and I'm trying to correct them," Flynn said. "I think across the board the Republicans should have never turned their backs on Libertarians. The Libertarians are the right wing of the Republican Party."
Horning has the potential to be a spoiler for Mourdock next week, much in the same way that national Republicans are concerned Libertarian Gary Johnson could costs presidential hopeful Mitt Romney crucial support in battleground states.
Flynn argued, however, that those are not votes lost by the Republican candidate, but votes that would never have occurred.
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