RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Republicans Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan found themselves dragged into a debate today over hot-button social issues and answering for differences between their personal positions on abortion, just days before a national convention aimed at showing a unified Republican party. The discussion lingered while President Barack Obama and Romney tangled from afar over issues like education and the deficit.
The GOP ticket dealt with a renewed focus on abortion in the wake of comments about "legitimate rape" from Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin, remarks that have caused an uproar and generated demands from Romney and party leaders for the congressman to quit the race.
The questions over abortion overshadowed events by Romney and Ryan in the battleground states of Iowa, North Carolina and Virginia - three states which Obama carried in 2008 - ahead of next week's Republican convention in Tampa, Fla. Obama rallied supporters in Nevada, the state with the nation's highest unemployment rate of 12 percent, before heading to New York for a basketball-themed fundraiser.
Since selecting Ryan as his running mate, Romney has faced questions about how his policy positions differ from those espoused by Ryan, the architect of a controversial budget blueprint that would dramatically alter Medicare. On abortion, 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.
Ryan, in an interview with a Pennsylvania TV station, emphasized Romney's role at the top of the ticket, saying he was proud of his record on the social issue. "I stand by my pro-life record in Congress. It's something I'm proud of. But Mitt Romney is the top of the ticket and Mitt Romney will be president and he will set the policy of the Romney administration," he said.