LAS VEGAS - President Obama weighed in on controversial comments about rape made by Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock of Indiana, calling it an example of why women should vote for him on Nov. 6 but stopping short of explicitly tying his opponent, Mitt Romney, to the same views.
"I don't know how these guys come up with these ideas," Obama said in an appearance on the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" Wednesday. "Let me make a very simple proposition, rape is rape. It is a crime. And so these various distinctions about rape don't make too much sense to me, don't make any sense to me."
During a debate with his anti-abortion Democratic rival Tuesday night, Mourdock said that "even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen." He has stood by the remark as a reflection of his belief that life begins at conception.
Obama, who supports abortion rights, has emphasized the issue in his bid for a second term, warning women that some Republicans would like to see abortion outlawed in all cases.
"This is exactly why you don't want a bunch of politicians, mostly male, making decisions about women's health care decisions," he told Leno, without mentioning Romney by name. "Women are capable of making these decisions in consultation with their partners, with their doctors, and for politicians to want to intrude in this stuff often times without any information is a huge problem. And this is obviously a part of what's at stake in this election."
The Republican nominee opposes abortion, but says he would allow exceptions for rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at risk.
While Obama was more circumspect, top Democrats and Obama campaign officials have overtly tied Romney to Mourdock's remark and his views on abortion. The GOP presidential nominee has appeared in one TV ad for Republican U.S. Senate candidates this year - an ad for Mourdock. Romney has disavowed the comments but not asked for the ad to be taken down.
"Not surprisingly, Romney is still standing by his endorsement and is refusing to ask that the ad be pulled down," deputy Obama campaign manager Stephanie Cutter wrote in an email blast to supporters Wednesday night with a video clip to Mourdock and Romney together.
"It's a grim reminder of something he's trying desperately to hide in the final weeks of this election: Romney has campaigned as a severe conservative, supports severely conservative candidates, and would be a severely conservative president - especially on issues important to women," she wrote.
Obama appeared on the "Tonight Show" in the midst of his 48-hour, non-stop campaign swing through eight states. It was his third visit with Leno as president and first this year.