RALEIGH, N.C. — Differences between Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan's positions — this time on hot-button social issues — were on display Wednesday as the GOP ticket found itself dragged into a debate over abortion.
The vice presidential candidate emphasized anew that Romney is the nominee, brushing aside differences in their records.
"I'm proud of my record. Mitt Romney's going to be the president and the president sets policy," Ryan told reporters as his campaign plane flew from Virginia to North Carolina.
Romney does not oppose abortion in cases of rape and incest or if it will save the mother's life, while Ryan does oppose abortion in cases of rape and incest.
Since choosing Ryan as his running mate, Romney has been dogged by questions about how his own views differ from the Wisconsin congressman's. Ryan is the architect of a controversial budget blueprint that would dramatically change Medicare and cut funds for a series of other popular programs. After his selection Democrats immediately began trying to tie Romney to his new No. 2's plan, with President Barack Obama launching a new push on cuts to education this week. Romney says his own budget plan is different from Ryan's, but he largely refused to outline specifics of the differences.
The focus on abortion comes in the wake of comments from Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. Asked in an interview aired Sunday if abortion should be legal in cases of rape, Akin said: "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
Ryan on Wednesday defended a bill he cosponsored in the House to permanently ban federal funding for abortion except in cases of incest and "forcible" rape. That language, which was eventually changed, would have narrowed the exception for rape victims. Akin and 225 other members of the House, including 11 Democrats, also cosponsored the bill.
Democrats have seized on the bill and accused Ryan of trying to "redefine rape and remove protections for rape victims."
Akin has refused to heed calls to step down — including one from Romney — and now would need a court order to leave the race. He has until Sept. 25 to do so. After that point, he would have no way to remove his name from the ballot.
Ryan, a colleague of Akin's in the House, called the Missouri congressman to urge him to bow out of the Senate race. Ryan said Wednesday he doesn't have any plans to speak to him about it now that Akin is staying in.
The questions about abortion were overshadowing the GOP ticket's campaign events in Iowa, Virginia and North Carolina Wednesday, where Romney was trying to keep the focus on the national debt and deficit.
Romney, speaking hours after the Congressional Budget Office warned of a new recession if Washington continues its stalemate over taxes and spending cuts, criticized Obama for not doing more to solve the country's fiscal problems.
"It's bad economics," he said. "It's the wrong course for America and I believe it's immoral to pass our burdens on to the next generation."
Romney's campaign was again attacking Obama's policies on Medicare, looking minimize focus on differences between the running mates. That comes in a new TV advertisement linking Obama's divisive health care overhaul to cuts in Medicare. The ad, titled "Nothing's Free," asserts that Obama raided $716 billion from Medicare in order to pay for his health care law.