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When a party platform matters

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell chairs the Republican platform committee.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell chairs the Republican platform committee.Associated Press

Ordinarily, major party platforms are important only to those who help write them. The documents are largely forgotten soon after they're published, and it's not like newly-elected presidents refer back to the platform's tenets when governing.

But given recent developments, the language of this year's Republican Party platform may be of greater interest than most.

Against the backdrop of Todd Akin's odious perspective on rape, Rachel explained last night, "The national [Republican] platform has supported criminalizing abortion since 1976 with no exceptions for rape or incest. The Republican Party has always counted on that being kind of quietly ignored in national politics, noticed by the activists to whom they answer but not noticed by any of us. Do you think they'll still take the Paul Ryan/Todd Akin position on rape victims in the national platform again this year or do you think now that's going to have to change?"

The answer is coming into focus.

First Read has confirmed a CNN report that the draft language on abortion in the Republican Party's official platform calls for the "Human Life Amendment," which would outlaw abortion in all circumstances (even in cases of rape or incest). An RNC official tells us that a full committee will vote on this draft language -- which was THE SAME LANGUAGE in 2004 and 2008 -- tomorrow, and the full convention will take it up on Monday*.

Keep in mind, just yesterday, the Romney-Ryan ticket, ignoring their own previous positions, said if elected, they "would not oppose abortion in instances of rape." On reproductive rights, the Romney-Ryan ticket will apparently oppose the Romney-Ryan platform.

At the same time, of course, this will also keep Romney's platform in line with suddenly-toxic Todd Akin's position, not to the extent that Republicans believe women have magical biological powers, but because the official GOP line says that Akin is right about the larger policy: the government should force women to take their pregnancy to term if they are impregnated by a rapist.

The chair of the Republican platform committee is none other than Virginia Gov. Bob "Ultrasound" McDonnell (R), who's joined on the panel by controversial pseudo-historian David Barton. The Family Research Council's Tony Perkins boasted yesterday that "our team has had several hands" working on GOP platform, which helps explain a lot.

Whether Romney will distance himself from his own party platform -- and whether he's even asked -- remains to be seen.

* Update: It appears the First Read report was off on the schedule. The RNC Platform Committee is voting on the party's draft abortion language tonight, and the full convention will vote on it Monday.