Partial transcript of “AC 360″ segment with Paul Begala and Kellyanne Conway
COOPER: Let’s turn — let’s turn now to the political fallout in all this. Kellyanne Conway who did polling for Congressman Akin during the primary but is not working for him now. Also Paul Begala who is currently advising the top pro-Obama super PAC.
So, Paul, what do you make of this? I mean how likely do you think it is that Akin is going to drop out?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I don’t know. I mean, the Republican establishment is bringing all of the weight it can bear to drive him out of the race. One would hope it’s because of these really offensive views and statements. But I have to say pragmatically, I think it’s because they’re scared they’re going to lose the election, because if they really care about these issues, they would be working to change their party platform which really kind of reflects Congressman Akin’s views a lot more than it reflects mainstream Americans.
COOPER: Do you think this does damage to the GOP writ large? I mean, because as you said, they are distancing themselves but largely based on language. There are plenty of folks who agree with the stand of not — of supporting abortion in the case of rape.
BEGALA: Right. And one of them is now about to be nominated for the vice presidency. Congressman Ryan, as a colleague of Congressman Akin, they co-sponsored, along with about 200 other Republicans, co- sponsored legislation that would have limited the Hyde Amendment, you know, outlaws federal funding for abortion under the Medicaid program. It’s been on the books for decades.
It’s always had an exception for rape, incest and the threat to a woman’s life. What Congressman Ryan, Congressman Akin and others wanted to do was restrict that rape exception down to what they, I think in a sick way, call forcible rape, to try to — I don’t know what their motive is. I don’t want to say. But anyway it would greatly restrict the access to abortion for rape victims. And that’s not just –
COOPER: Critics of that, Paul, were saying that if you use that term, “forcible rape,” it somehow implies that perhaps incest or statutory rape is somehow not — or rape of a — if somebody with Down syndrome is somehow — because it may be, you know, technically not a forcible rape in terms of physical violence but that it would limit it at that.
BEGALA: That’s why I think most Americans are going to find what Congressman Ryan and Congressman Akin were doing pretty offensive. I have to say, even Republicans changed that language before they passed the bill. So even among conservative Republicans who are pro-life, Paul Ryan, Congressman Akin are really out there.
But the party has moved to that sort of extreme. And this is the problem. These positions have been held by the Republicans, by many Republicans, for a long time. But sometimes it takes one of these events that pops and it shines a light on it. And I think this is — this is one of those events. I think this is transcending politics. Moving in a pop culture. I think people who don’t follow politics are really appalled that one of the major political parties seems to believe that some women who are raped should not have access to abortion rights.
COOPER: Kellyanne, Akin has run shoestring campaigns before. I mean right now it seems like there’s only two groups who want Akin to stay in this race. Akin himself, I guess his family, and some supporters, and his Democratic opponent, Claire McCaskill. That pretty much sends a loud and clear message to him. Do you think he’s going to get that message?
KELLYANNE CONWAY, POLLSTER: Well, the deadline passed today. He basically has until September 25th to plead his case to a judge and take himself off the ballot. But I’ll just repeat what Congressman Akin said today in the press where I read it that he’s going to stay in the race.
On this broader point of the GOP platform, that’s been in the platform, that’s been in the plank of the platform for as long as I can remember. And what Paul is saying that, you know, it doesn’t really reflect what most Americans think. We all know that polling has been showing many people in this country want restrictions on abortion. I think we need to talk about the extremes on the left as well.
They got some pressure. The “Washington Post” reported on August 10th that there are Democrats who are going to the convention in Charlotte who want their plank expanded. They feel that it’s too draconian. It doesn’t allow for partial birth abortion bans. It doesn’t ban sex selection. You’ve got all these little baby girls being killed just because they’re girls in this country –
COOPER: Wait, wait.
CONWAY: I mean, Paul, under what –
COOPER: Excuse me, where is that happening?
CONWAY: Excuse me?
COOPER: Where, as you say, we have all these baby girls being killed in this country because — on sex selections, on abortions? Where –
COOPER: Where is the evidence on that?
CONWAY: The Guttmacher Institute which is the research on Planned Parenthood has data on sex selective abortions. And actually Congress — the House just passed a bill to ban that. I’m not sure it ever went to the Senate. And I’m sure President Obama would veto it if it was put on his desk –
COOPER: But statistically, there’s not really much evidence that that is actually occurring in the United States. Amongst some immigrant groups in small numbers it may be occurring but in no statistical measure is it significant.
CONWAY: Well, we should look at Guttmacher Institute’s statistics to really illuminate us on that. But it does — it does occur because there’s so much science now people can — they can know the gender of their baby and they make their choices accordingly. COOPER: It occurs overseas a lot but again I don’t think the evidence is here in the United States. I’ll double-check it. But I just read earlier.
CONWAY: Thank you. But I must say that, if we’re going to have a debate on abortion we have to think of the Gallup poll last year that showed 44 percent of Americans think that abortions should be available, quote, “in just a couple of circumstances.” And so people have been moving, you know, science and medicine, if not religion and morality, have compelled some people.
And I just want to tell you that the pro-life plank and the Republican platform exist because pro-lifers always focus on life. They believe in a culture of life from birth to — from conception to natural death. And they’re focused on the right of the baby to be born regardless of the circumstances.
I’m just trying to explain the platform to you. We actually have a presidential nominee, again, like we did last time, who has a position on abortion that does not match its party’s plank.
COOPER: Right. Paul, I want to read you something. A tweet that actually Todd Akin just sent out. I’m reading it off my BlackBerry. He says, I apologize but the liberal media is trying to make me drop out. Please stand with me tonight by signing my petition. Then he gives an address.
Do you think that’s going to fly, the idea of this is liberal media drumbeat trying to get him out of the race?
BEGALA: You know, he’s got to say something. And it is not for me whether to say he should stay in or get out. Although he should get out. It is not the liberal media doing it. This is the conservative Republican establishment. Again, not because of his views but because he spoke it aloud. Because he spoke it in such an offensive way. Because he seems to embrace this really nutty theory.
But the reality is, the Republican platform — CNN is reporting this today includes language calling for no federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. Now even Nancy Reagan, one of the icons of the Republican Party, strongly supports federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.
It does not — the Republican platform does not include any exceptions for women who are the victim of rape or incest.
COOPER: But Paul, let me –
BEGALA: This a very extreme position.
COOPER: Let me push back though. I mean critics will say party platforms are often pretty extreme whether it’s on the left or the right in order to kind of mobilize the base or satisfy the base and rarely does it actually translate into what the candidate thinks.
I want to — you to respond to that and Kellyanne as well. We’ve got to take a quick break. You’re going to come back after this break. We’re going to talk more about how this is playing in the presidential race. How it factors into each side’s efforts to get a coherent message out.
Let us know what you think. Follow me on Twitter right now. @Andersoncooper. Let’s tweet about this.
More on 360 right after this.
COOPER: Hey, welcome back. Here’s something you might have missed in the uproar over Congressman Todd Akin’s claim about rape and pregnancy.
As Paul Begala mentioned a moment ago, the Republican Party today finalized language in its 2012 campaign platform calling for a constitutional ban on abortion with no exceptions for rape and incest. Now later, the platform committee adopted a pair of amendments. One stating that being pro-life is consistent with being pro-woman. The other supporting a ban on RU-486, a similar pregnancy-ending — and similar, excuse me, I should say, pregnancy-ending drugs.
Now according to National Public Radio, an Alabama delegate objected, saying that in light of the Akin controversy it sends the wrong signal to women. And given the gender gap Mitt Romney appears to be facing in this election, not to mention another three days of his own message getting upstaged by something else, it raises some big questions.
John King is here at the magic wall to break it down for us — John.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, if you look back in time, remember, George W. Bush won twice, Ronald Reagan won, George HW Bush won with the conservative Republican platform. So Republicans would say the platform does not determine who wins the election.
However, Mitt Romney does have that gender gap you just mentioned. So want to do a little bit of history here. Could the Todd Akin problem potentially be a Mitt Romney problem? Yes, if they don’t put it to rest. And yes, if it begins to affect him among moderate suburban women.
Let me show you exactly what I mean. If you want to go back in time, this is the state of Colorado. These are national exit polls from the last two presidential elections. This is nationally. You see, John McCain actually won among suburban women. He won by four points nationwide among suburban women. We all know he lost the election big time.
Look at 2004, George W. Bush won by 12 points. That’s the big difference. Republicans need to win big in the suburbs, which mean they also need to get suburban women or else. Let me show you an example of what I mean. Here’s 2008. In the state of Colorado, the president and John McCain actually wins by 11 points, John McCain does, but he lose the state of Colorado. George W. Bush wins it four years earlier because he has a 16-point advantage among just suburban women.
Come back to the map here and I’ll show you just what I’m talking about. If you pull out the map, this again is — here’s 2008. Watch the Denver suburbs. The closest in suburbs to urban areas tend to be the more moderate, the more swing suburbs.
See the blue for 2008? Go back to 2004. Let the map work for me here. And you see the red right in here in the Denver suburbs. George W. Bush does better in the suburbs. George W. Bush wins the election and becomes president of the United States.
Let’s come east to Virginia. This is a state where the demographics are changing. Again, let’s do the math first. We are in 2004 right now. See the red? See the red in the Richmond suburbs? In the Washington, D.C. suburbs? That’s 2004. George W. Bush does very well. He wins.
We come fast forward to 2008. Blue. Barack Obama wins the Washington suburbs. Wins down in the Richmond suburbs. And changes this. Now again, he only broke even with John McCain in Virginia among suburban women statewide. But closer into the city areas, he does better. Look at the gap for George W. Bush, 17 points over John Kerry among suburban women.
Anderson, close presidential elections in the United States are decided in the suburbs. One more example for you. We’ll show you the state of Ohio. This could be the decisive state this year. This is where President Obama was today. Again, a tie between Obama and McCain in 2008. We know what happened. Obama carried the state 52- 47.
If you go back in time, George Bush won by five points. That’s among just suburban women. Again with that same conservative platform, just to show you what it looks like, the biggest place here in a very close presidential election in Ohio when it comes down to suburbs, Lake County, just near Cleveland. See it blue? That’s 2008. Let’s go back in time to get to 2004 and it is red.
So close elections are won in the suburbs and they can be won based on how well Republicans do among suburban women.
COOPER: Interesting stuff, John King, appreciate it, thanks. I want to bring back the political panel, Kellyanne Conway and Paul Begala.
Before the break, Kellyanne, you mentioned the Guttmacher Institute information on sex, selective abortion in the United States. Here’s what they actually say in a May 30th press release titled “Sex Selective Abortion Bans: A Disingenuous New Strategy to Limit Women’s Access to Abortion.” The study acknowledges the practice does go on overseas as we mentioned and perhaps in certain Asian-American communities in the United States in small numbers. But, quote, “In the United States, meanwhile, there is limited data indicating that sex-selective abortion may be occurring in some Asian communities. Although the U.S. sex ratio at 1.05 males for every female is squarely within biologically normal parameters.”
So I just wanted to put that out there.
Kellyanne, in terms of what John King was talking about, do you believe that this can have an impact on Mitt Romney? Even though Mitt Romney’s position is not the Akin position. Mitt Romney over the last several years says that he does support abortion in the — in the cases of rape and incest.
CONWAY: Well, John King is absolutely correct that the election will be won or lost in the suburbs particularly among women and married women. But I disagree with anybody who says it’s going to be won or lost on the issue of abortion, abortion and contraception. That would be a new one. And in everybody’s polling, including — including CNN’s polling, these issues are nowhere in the top five or top three.
And voters want people to talk about the things that they are talking about around the kitchen tables and the — and the cappuccino counters which are jobs, the economy, really, the everyday affordability of daily life.
But there is a management issue here. This has been a powder keg for the Republican Party the last couple of days. And how it is managed is going to be very important. But I think that for Obama to win this election he has to go back to who he was in 2008 when he ran promising no tax for the middle — no tax on 95 percent of Americans, hope and change.
I think for Romney to win, he has to go back to 2010, where women favored Republicans over Democrats. The congressional level for the first time ever. Based almost solely on an economic agenda.
COOPER: Paul, to Kellyanne’s point, when you look at polling, women’s reproductive issues have barely been an asterisk on the list of top voter priorities this year. Is there a risk for Democrats to keep focusing on them in this? Or do you think this — it does have an impact on Romney or could?
BEGALA: I think it could have a tremendous impact. For a couple of reasons. First, this may jump that up a bit. But also for a lot of women — Kellyanne just mentioned married women. It’s true. There’s actually a significant marriage gap. Single women tend to be much more Democratic. Married women tend to be much more Republican. Both, single and married women, in the main, support abortion rights. Single women somewhat more. This is sort of issue for the kinds of constituencies President Obama needs to motivates, especially young people. That could be very powerful. We are now probably two generations into young women growing up without any worries about their abortion rights being restricted. And now you have a light shown on a long-standing Republicans position that they didn’t know about, these young women and young men for that matter, that even in cases of rape, even in cases of incest, the Republican Party’s proclaiming itself to be the party that will outlaw a woman’s right to choose. That’s pretty remarkable.
COOPER: We got to leave it there. Paul Begala, Kellyanne Conway, appreciate both of you being on.
If you want to see the full Guttmacher Institute study, we’re going to put it out on our Web site right now. Go to ac360.com. Just for — accuracy’s sake.
As we’ve said, reaching out to women is a key role that Ann Romney is playing in the Republican campaign. We’re going to profile the woman who could become the first lady of the United States next.
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