‘Health of the mother’

‘HEALTH OF THE MOTHER’…. It’s generally hard to predict what voters will remember from a 90-minute debate, but now that the dust has cleared, one of the more striking moments seemed to come in the midst of the discussion about abortion rights.

McCain had tried to characterize Obama’s position on abortion as extreme, and Obama explained that he’d support restrictions on late-term abortions if proposals included provisions to protect the life and health of the mother.

McCain scoffed and responded by describing the “health of the mother” in air quotes, as if women’s health was something to be mocked.

I have no idea what the “squiggly lines” looked like among focus group participants when McCain did this, but my guess is the response wasn’t favorable.

The problem, of course, is that McCain obviously appeared callous, but in the broader context, he also assumed that all voters are familiar with far-right arguments about abortion restrictions. It’s what happens when someone spends a quarter-century on the Hill, and forgets that regular folks don’t consume talking points the way insiders do.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.