Abortion and same-sex marriage are two issues that candidates are often asked to address in heat of a contested election. Some relish the opportunity and others try to avoid it. But a leading female evangelical maintains candidates need to be better informed about how to address controversial issues with facts and compassion.
Penny Nance heads up Concerned Women for America, the nation's largest public policy focusing on women's issues. She says she is routinely called by a federal or state candidate who has said something wrong or made an correct statement on abortion or other "hot-button" issue that have been take out of context by the media.
"It wasn't just the [Todd] Akin or [Richard] Mourdock campaigns who called after their statements were reported," Nance told The Christian Post last week. "I lost count of the number of campaigns we heard from."
Days after winning the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Missouri, Rep. Todd Akin commented that a woman's body could reject a pregnancy after a "legitimate rape." The comment sent liberal bloggers and media outlets into a tailspin and the comment created chaos within the GOP ranks after party leaders demanded he step down.
Akin remained in the race despite having funds and support pulled by the party. Some GOP funds did end up paying for ads attacking Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill but it was too little and too late to have an impact.
Another Midwest senate candidate, Indiana's Richard Mourdock also made controversial comments on abortion that may have damaged a campaign already running on thin support from the state's more moderate voters.
Nance says the answer is better education and training of candidates.
"We support candidates who support issues we feel strongly about," said Nance. "With that said, I'm going to recommend moving forward that candidates who receive support from CWA must first attend one of our training sessions. They need to be able to articulate what the issue is and how it affects our society and voters.
"Candidates and office holders need to do a better job of responding to a question about a teenager who gets pregnant. A candidate can show compassion for the young woman while making suggestions about how to improve the circumstances that led to an untimed pregnancy."
Karen McNeil is a board member of Life Choices of Memphis, a Christian child placement agency and ministers annually to young women who find themselves facing an unplanned pregnancy.
McNeill says candidates used to contact her and others when they were thinking about running for office and that regardless of the issue they need to be educated and informed before publicly advocating their position.
"Candidates used to call me and others when they were considering running for office," she said. "I don't see that happening as often as it used to. My advice is for them to get out into the community and meet people who are knowledge about issues, whether they are social or fiscal."
McNeil went on to say that today's Democratic candidates seem to be more well-versed about their issues but when they slip up and make poor comments, others are quick to defend them.
"You can be sure Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups are making sure their candidates can talk about why a baby in the womb should be killed although we detest the thought of that cruel act," McNeil said. "Whenever a Democrat misspeaks, the party gets behind them; they cover their backs. Republicans walk away from the candidates too easily and that is unfortunate."