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The 'stupid party': Is GOP's concern what's said or how it's said?

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Both men were referring to the much-publicized, and much-derided, remarks of former Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri ("if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down") and former Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock ("even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, it is something that God intended to happen").

The comments contributed to – and may have been responsible for – Republican Senate losses in states that the party otherwise had very good chances of winning. Moreover, the media attention they received may even have played a part in Mitt Romney's loss to President Obama, by turning some moderate women from the Republican Party.

Jindal and Barbour are only the latest voices within the GOP to warn against alienating whole segments of voters. But hearing the warning is one thing, and heeding it appears to be quite another. Recently, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R) of Georgia revived the controversy by defending Mr. Akin's comments at a local chamber of commerce breakfast in Georgia: "A scared-to-death 15-year-old that becomes impregnated by her boyfriend and then has to tell her parents ... might on some occasion say, ‘Hey, I was raped.’ That’s what [Akin] meant when he said legitimate rape versus non-legitimate rape. I don’t find anything so horrible about that."

All this has been damaging to the Republican Party brand, but the "stupid" charge in particular also raises some pointed questions. Are Republicans such as Jindal and Barbour saying they want the party to moderate its official position on social issues like abortion? Or are they saying they don't want candidates to talk in such explicit terms about what they actually believe, even if it largely comports with party policy?

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