Editor's note: John Avlon is a CNN contributor and senior political columnist for Newsweek and The Daily Beast. He is co-editor of the book "Deadline Artists: America's Greatest Newspaper Columns." He is a regular contributor to "Erin Burnett OutFront" and is a member of the OutFront Political Strike Team. For more political analysis, tune in to "Erin Burnett OutFront" at 7 ET weeknights.
(CNN) -- Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock believes that rapes resulting in pregnancy are "something that God intends to happen."
It's a relevant question as we enter the last two weeks of this election, because Mourdock's comments are not isolated.
The statement comes from the same rigid ideology behind conservative Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin's musings in August, when he said women's bodies have the ability to "shut down" pregnancies that result from what he called "legitimate rape."
Mourdock and Akin were both trying to explain their determination to outlaw abortion even in cases of rape and incest, a position consistent with the Republican Party platform, which calls for a constitutional ban on abortion.
Mitt Romney and some other leading Republicans repudiated Akin's comment. But as I pointed out in a CNN column at the time, the problem seemed to lie with the politics and optics rather than underlying policy.
Republicans are desperately trying to close the gender gap with women, and one way to do it is to insist that this election is only about economic issues. But many conservative candidates for Senate harbor deep-seated social conservative views, an absolute opposition to abortion among them. It's a position that vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan has long held.
Most Americans believe that abortion should be "safe, legal and rare." And a stunning Gallup Poll taken earlier this month in 12 swing states found that 39% of women who are registered voters said that abortion was the most important issue for women in this election. With the Supreme Court likely one vote away from overturning Roe v. Wade -- a goal that Mitt Romney has reaffirmed on the campaign trail -- this issue is real and relevant.
That's why Mourdock's centrist Democrat Senate opponent Joe Donnelly said, "The God I believe in and the God I know most Hoosiers believe in does not intend for rape to happen — ever. ... What Mr. Mourdock said is shocking, and it is stunning that he would be so disrespectful to survivors of rape."
The case against electing a right-wing ideologue like Richard Mourdock to the Senate goes deeper than social issues. When Mourdock took on the senior Senate statesman Dick Lugar in a Republican primary with tea party support, he specifically attacked Lugar's record of bipartisan problem-solving, saying: "The time for collegiality is past ... it's time for confrontation."
That's the kind of change a Tea-vaneglist candidate like Mourdock represents for the U.S. Senate, the Republican Party and the nation -- more hyper-partisan fighting, more absolutism and more religion influencing public policy. There's nothing libertarian about government forcing a woman to carry her rapist's baby to term.
Let's be clear -- Mourdock's attempt to square his religious beliefs with his public policy beliefs is what led to the tortured statement. But what Mourdock said was not a mistake or a misstatement. It's what he truly believes.
Combined with his commitment to be an obstructionist and absolutist in the Senate, instead of a bipartisan problem-solver, it presents a clear choice with national implications because he's the only Senate candidate running for whom Mitt Romney took the time to cut a TV ad.
Indiana voters will get to decide if Mourdock's comments are consistent with their common sense approach to politics and problem-solving. Voters across the nation will need to decide whether they want to empower his extreme vision of politics in Washington over the next four years.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Avlon.