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Veep watch: Tom Ridge negotiates the abortion tightrope on "Fox News Sunday"

August 17, 2008 |  3:45 pm

Pro-choice Tom Ridge says he'd defer to pro-life John McCain.During Saturday's Saddleback Civil Forum, Republican nominee-in-waiting John McCain responded emphatically when asked by Pastor Rick Warren: "At what point is a baby entitled to human rights?"

"At the moment of conception," McCain replied, to loud applause from the audience.

"As president of the United States, I will be a pro-life president, and this presidency will have pro-life policies," he said. "That's my commitment, my commitment to you."

This is, of course, the same John McCain who was recently asked by the Weekly Standard -- a highly influential magazine among the party's conservative base -- about potential vice-presidential candidates and replied: "Tom Ridge is one of the great leaders, and he happens to be pro-choice. And I don't think that would necessarily rule Tom Ridge out."

Today, on "Fox News Sunday" ...

... host Chris Wallace asked Ridge, a former governor of Pennsylvania and the country's first Homeland Security secretary, about McCain's views and his own pro-choice position:

WALLACE: Given its long pro-life history, do you really think that the Republican Party would accept a pro-choice running mate?

RIDGE:  My friend of 25 years is passionately pro-life.  He is also passionately a believer that the Republican Party must have a big tent.  And I think, frankly, what he was just saying to the rest of the world is that we need to accept both points of view.

He's not judgmental about me or my belief. He just disagrees with me. And there's no doubt in my mind, no doubt whatsoever, that there would be -- he would have a strong pro-life administration.  No question about it.

WALLACE: And to answer my question specifically, do you think the Republican Party would accept a pro-choice running mate?

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

Later, Ridge described the #2 slot this way: "The last time I checked, the vice president is not an independent voice. He echoes the position of the president of the United States."

WALLACE: And that's what you would do if you were the running mate?

RIDGE: I think that'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.

In the Weekly Standard interview, McCain also noted: "I think it's a fundamental tenet of our party to be pro-life, but that does not mean we exclude people from our party that are pro-choice."

Apparently, "we" also don't exclude the possibility of winning 21 electoral votes from Pennsylvania, a battleground state where Ridge remains popular.

-- Leslie Hoffecker

Photo credit: Freddie Lee / Fox News Sunday

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