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After releasing what TPM characterized as a “tepid” response to the Akin “legitimate rape” statement yesterday, Romney seems to have finally decided which way the wind is blowing, and today issued a far more forceful statement:

“Rep. Akin comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong,” Romney told National Review. “Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive.”

Many commentators have noted, however, that the substance of Akin’s comments about the exception for rape have been endorsed by both Romney and his VP choice, Paul Ryan. In fact, Paul Ryan, was fairly full-throated in his support of legislation that would have limited federal funding for abortions to cases of “forcible” rape, another way to talk about “legitimate” rape. The seeming contradiction is raising questions among the faithful, as indicated in this tweet:

Kyle Luebke ‏@kylejl89

@streitfeldcnn I wonder why #Ryan supports banning it in cases of rape then. Is #RomneyRyan trying to hide their true position?

Ed Kilgore captures the fine points of the GOP dilemma that has been forced to the forefront by Akin’s bumbling:

The enduring significance of Akin’s “gaffe” (which meets the Kinsley Gaffe definition of an utterance that reveals the pol’s true feelings) may be to force anti-choicers in one direction or the other: towards the morally repugnant view that rape and incest victims need to be forced to carry pregnancies to term, and the morally inconsistent position that a zygote’s status and rights depend on the circumstances of its conception. Defining away rape won’t cut it any more.

Of course there is a third way and it is the path that  our recent experience tells us we can expect the Romney/Ryan team to choose: obfuscate and create confusion. It seems to be working as far as their dishonest effort to claim that it’s actually the Obama Administration that will cut Medicare.  This strategy suggests that there’s no compelling reason to try to be intellectually consistent, which is in line with the Romney campaign’s decsion to keep the candidate’s actual positions as hazy as possible; as a Romney campaign staffer declared:

Campaigns that are about specifics, particularly in today’s environment, get tripped up

Evidently, Todd Akin didn’t get that memo. Sadly for him, the “specifics” he dredged up are spurious, pseudo-medical sounding garbage that have been used by anti-abortion fanatics for decades to imply that all women who get abortions are sluts. The task his gaffe sets for  for the rest of us? We can try to get some clarity from Romney and Ryan about where they really stand on women’s welfare issues, with the all-out zealots or the politically cautious zealots.