MILFORD, N.H.—On his first full day as a presidential candidate, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul sat for an interview that Democrats thought they can use against him. Associated Press reporter Philip Elliott prodded Paul on abortion, and whether a candidate who once sponsored a personhood amendment would allow some exemptions.
"The thing is about abortion—and about a lot of things—is that I think people get tied up in all these details of, sort of, you're this or this or that, or you're hard and fast (on) one thing or the other," Paul told Elliott. "I've supported both bills with and without (exceptions), you know. In general, I am pro-life. So I will support legislation that advances and shows that life is special and deserves protection."
The Democratic National Committee pushed that interview out to reporters, with no commentary, at 1 p.m. Minutes later, Paul happened to be taking questions after his speech to hundreds of people in Milford's town hall.
"Should there be any exemptions or not?" asked NH1 reporter Paul Steinhauser, citing the DNC attack.
"What's the DNC say?" asked Paul. That landed like a joke—the room holding the press conference also contained some Paul supporters waiting for photos—but he was serious.
"Here's the deal—we always seen to have the debate waaaaay over here on what are the exact details of exemptions, or when it starts," said Paul, waving his hands to the left. "Why don’t we ask the DNC: Is it okay to kill a seven-pound baby in the uterus? You go back and you ask Debbie Wasserman Schultz if she's OK with killing a seven-pound baby that is not born yet. Ask her when life begins, and you ask Debbie when it's okay to protect life. When you get an answer from Debbie, get back to me."
It was the answer social conservatives would have preferred Paul give all along. Pro-life groups, especially the Susan B. Anthony List PAC, had been working for years to get Republicans to turn abortion questions back onto the reporters asking them. Instead of accepting the media's framing, and asking what Republicans might accept, the SBA List advised conservative candidates to focus on what abortion actually was; who the unborn actually were.
Paul did so, in front of more than a dozen cameras—and then wrapped his press conference.
UPDATE: After this item was published, the Democratic National Committee sent Bloomberg News a statement from party chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
"Here’s an answer," said Schultz. "I support letting women and their doctors make this decision without government getting involved. Period. End of story. Now your turn, Senator Paul. We know you want to allow government officials like yourself to make this decision for women — but do you stand by your opposition to any exceptions, even when it comes to rape, incest, or life of the mother? Or do we just have different definitions of ‘personal liberty’? And I’d appreciate it if you could respond without ’shushing’ me."