updated 8/17/2008 12:17:26 PM ET 2008-08-17T16:17:26

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, who is believed to be on John McCain's short list of running mates, said Sunday he thinks Republicans would accept a vice presidential candidate like himself who supports abortion rights.

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But, he said, whomever McCain chooses should defer to him on the issue.

McCain opposes abortion rights, but he riled some conservatives last week when he suggested his running mate could — like Ridge — support abortion rights.

"What he was saying to the rest of the world is that we need to accept both points of view," Ridge said in a broadcast interview. "He's not judgmental about me or my belief. He just disagrees with me."

Would be major break with GOP orthodoxy
However, it would be a major break with Republican orthodoxy for McCain to pick a running mate who supports abortion rights.

"I think that would be up to, first of all, to John to decide whether he wants a pro-choice running mate; then we would have to see how the Republican Party would rally around it," Ridge said. "At the end of the day, I think the Republican Party will be comfortable with whatever choice John makes."

McCain's statement last week was seen as an appeal to centrist voters. On Sunday, Ridge tried to soothe conservatives by stating that McCain's view on the issue would prevail in a McCain administration.

"The last time I checked, the vice president is not an independent voice. He echoes the position of the president of the United States," Ridge said. "I think it's the responsibility of the vice president. If you're unwilling or unable to do that, then I think you should defer to someone else."

Ridge was interviewed on "Fox News Sunday."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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