EVANSVILLE, IN - AUGUST 04: U.S. Senate Candidate Richard Mourdock (R-IN) (R) applauds as he listens to Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speak during a campaign event at Stepto's Bar B Q Shack on August 4, 2012 in Evansville, Indiana. Romney told supporters at the event that the latest jobs report was evidence that Obama’s economic policies were not working. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Catalina Camia, USA TODAY
Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock said Wednesday he has been "misunderstood," as he stood by remarks that when a woman becomes pregnant during rape "it is something that God intended."
The Republican's original comments sparked an uproar from Democrats and caused presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who is running an ad on Mourdock's behalf, to disavow the controversial statements. Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire canceled plans to campaign with Mourdock.
A spokeswoman for President Obama's campaign said Obama "felt those comments were outrageous and demeaning to women."
Mourdock, who at times appeared teary during his news conference, said he regrets the remark made during a debate Tuesday against Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly. The Indiana state treasurer said he abhors "any kind of sexual violence" and rape.
'If they came away with any impression other than that I truly regret it, I apologize," he said. "I've certainly been humbled by the fact that so many people think that somehow was an interpretation."
Asked whether abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or incest, Mourdock said during Tuesday's debate, "I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."
Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul told the Associated Press that Romney "disagrees with Richard Mourdock's comments, and they do not reflect his views." Romney supports abortion in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the woman is in danger.
Romney aides did not say whether the ad for Mourdock would be pulled or if he still supports Mourdock's candidacy.
Mourdock's comments, coming amid a hotly contested Senate race that could decide which party controls power, follow those of GOP Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri.
In August, Akin said women could prevent pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape." Akin apologized for that comment, but top Republicans - including Romney - disavowed his comments and have abandoned him in a race that was considered winnable for the GOP. Democrat Claire McCaskill leads Akin by an average of 5 percentage points, according to polls compiled by RealClearPolitics.
Psaki, the Obama campaign spokeswoman, told reporters that Mourdock's comments are "a reminder that a Republican Congress working with a Republican president, Mitt Romney, would feel that women should not be able to make choices about their own health care."
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, chairwoman of the Senate Democrats' campaign committee, called on Romney to pull his Mourdock ad off the air. Psaki said "it is perplexing" that Romney has not called for the ad to stop.
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Mourdock's views are not different from those of Donnelly. Cornyn said the election is about "big ideas" such as the role of government, taxes and federal spending.
"Richard and I, along with millions of Americans - including even Joe Donnelly - believe that life is a gift from God," Cornyn said. "To try and construe his words as anything other than restatement of that belief is irresponsible and ridiculous. In fact, rather than condemning him for his position, as some in his party have when it's come to Republicans, I commend Congressman Donnelly for his support of life."
Donnelly has called himself "pro-life." The Indianapolis Star reports that after the debate, Donnelly shook his head at Mourdock's comments and said, "I don't know any God who would ever intend something like that."
The Susan B. Anthony List, a conservative group that opposes abortion rights, restated its support for Mourdock and stressed its own ad campaign highlighting Donnelly's abortion record.
"Richard Mourdock said that life is always a gift from God, and we couldn't agree more," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the SBA List. "To report his statement as an endorsement of rape is either willfully ignorant or malicious. Congressman Donnelly should not underestimate our ability to understand Mourdock's meaning."
Democratic groups wasted no time in criticizing Mourdock. The Democratic National Committee came out with a Web video splicing together words from Romney's ad along with Mourdock's statements from Tuesday. American Bridge 21st Century, a super PAC, released its own Web video on Wednesday highlighting what it called Mourdock's "extreme views" on rape, climate change and bipartisanship. The super PAC's video opens with a snippet from Romney's pro-Mourdock ad and includes an image of Romney throughout.
Mourdock made national headlines this year when he defeated veteran GOP Sen. Richard Lugar in an intraparty primary. Lugar has kept the Indiana Senate seat in Republican hands for nearly 40 years, but polls show the Mourdock-Donnelly race is virtually tied.
In recent days, Republicans such as Arizona Sen. John McCain and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have campaigned for Mourdock.