He focused on GOP differences as Romney and Obama sought to highlight partisan ones.
RALEIGH, N.C. - Republicans Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan found themselves dragged into a debate Wednesday 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.
They 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. President Obama rallied supporters in Nevada, the state with the nation's highest unemployment rate of 12 percent, before heading to New York for a 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 Republican 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.
'It's something I'm proud of'
Ryan on Wednesday emphasized Romney's role at the top of the ticket. "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.
Ryan defended a bill he co-sponsored with Akin and 224 others to ban federal funding for abortion except in cases of incest and "forcible" rape. That language, which was eventually changed, would have narrowed the exception for rape victims.
Akin, who has rejected GOP calls to end his bid against Sen. Claire McCaskill in a race that could determine control of the Senate, said Sunday: "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." Obama's campaign did not mention Akin's comments, but honed in on the legislation related to federal funding for abortions. His campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said Ryan had "worked with Todd Akin to try to narrow the definition of rape and outlaw abortion even for rape victims."
'He's going to run his campaign'
Ryan called Akin and unsuccessfully urged him to exit the race, but said he had no other plans to speak to him about it. Akin now would need a court order by Sept. 25 to leave the race. After that point, there would be no way to remove his name from the ballot. "He's going to run his campaign and we're going to run ours," Ryan said of Akin.
Romney returned to the economy in Bettendorf, Iowa, criticizing Obama for failing to bring down the nation's debt. He said Obama's policies are "the wrong course for America."
Obama focused on education for a second day in Nevada, telling supporters that the Ryan budget would force dramatic education cuts even as Romney's plan would cut taxes for millionaires. Obama said: "How many teachers' jobs are worth another tax cut for millionaires and billionaires? How many kids in Head Start are worth a tax cut for somebody like me who doesn't need it? How many grants and loans for college students are worth a tax cut for Governor Romney who certainly doesn't need it?"