Republican reactions to Rush Limbaugh calling a 30-year-old grad student a "slut" and a "prostitute" for thinking birth control pills should be covered by health insurance have been varied this weekend, as the candidates took to the talk show circuit to express their opinion on the divisive topic. Not surprisingly, each candidate's approach says a lot about their campaign's underlying strategy.
On the "if I don't talk about it, maybe it will go away" front was Mitt Romney, who attempted to avoid talking about the subject at all. When finally pressed for an opinion on Friday night, CNN quotes him as saying, "I'll just say this which is it's not the language I would have used," Romney said. "I'm focusing on the issues I think are significant in the country today, and that's why I'm here talking about jobs and Ohio."
Romney's wife spoke out as well, and in the same vein: "I love it that women are concerned and voting for economic reasons," she told a handful of supporters at her husband's Ohio campaign headquarters in Columbus. "Moms are very angry about the deficit spending in Washington, D.C."
In an astounding display of a lack of self-awareness, Rick Santorum attempted to turn the conversation to his concern about someone legislating morality (apparently the only one allowed to do this is Santorum himself). Santorum, like Romney, chose to attack Limbaugh's words but not his message, calling Limbaugh's words "absurd" and adopting a "boys will be boys" mentality about "entertainers."
"Slut" and "prostitute" are absurd to Santorum, but "snob"? Well, even Santorum admits that's taking it too far. During an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN's "The Situation Room," he retracted his use of the word to describe President Obama, saying, "I got a little passionate there and I used a harsher word than I normally would, but the point was government shouldn't be dictating to people what they do."
The last of the Republican reactions to Rush Limbaugh's comments comes from Ron Paul, who in contrast to his competition, approached the subject with less judgment but no more logic. PaulÂ—a former obstetrician, who should know better than most that women use birth control pills for a variety of health-related related reasons that have nothing to do with avoiding pregnancyÂ—chose a bizarre, extended metaphor equating birth control with house paint.
All told, each of these Republican reactions to Rush Limbaugh's latest PR disaster appears perfectly tailored to their loyal supporters: Romney managed to work the economy into it, Santorum made it all about morals, and Paul did whatever it is that he does that appeals to his loyalists. But what do these Republican responses to Rush say about the candidates to undecided voters? Do these responses make any difference in their public opinion?