The current political spotlight is on Rep. Todd Akin after he made an ill-advised comment on Sunday regarding pregnancies as a result of rape. He outraged many on the Left and had prominent Republicans quickly distancing themselves from him, including the Romney/Ryan campaign. Akin apologized for his words, but defiantly refused to drop out of the race.
Plenty of conservatives have come out, not in support of Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment, but questioning why this is still a big deal since he apologized. They argue the senate race in Missouri and races across the country should be about the economy and not social issues. However, it is a candidate’s position on social issues that can attract voters and turn them off a candidate too. Besides, a politician’s apology on the campaign trail carries as much weight as his promises.
The problem most people have is that a current elected official in Congress and candidate for the U.S. Senate would speak on a subject as serious as sexual assault and rape the way Akin did. He said things that are medically and biologically false by claiming it was rare that “legitimate rapes” result in pregnancies because the female body will try to “shut that whole thing down”. This would seem to imply that if a woman reported that she was raped and got pregnant from it then the legitimacy of her claim could be brought into question, which is not a good message to promote.
The Senate race in Missouri is being closely monitored by political analysts and pundits because the GOP had an opportunity to oust the current Democratic incumbent, Claire McCaskill. ‘Had’ may be the opportune word. Pollsters will, no doubt, conduct statewide polls to gauge voter reaction to Akin’s remarks, but it is almost a certainty that his favorability will decline and the advantage could easily go to McCaskill.
Republicans don’t want to lose voters, especially in a highly contested election year when the Senate and the Oval Office could realistically go to them. GOP leaders know they need to win over certain demographics to give them the edge nationally, and this includes independent women voters. There is concern among some Republican leaders that Akin’s gaffe could cost them voters in this group of the electorate and seriously affect the party’s chances, not just in Missouri, but in races across the country, including the presidential race.
The Romney/Ryan campaign was very quick to publicly distance themselves from Todd Akin. The campaign released a statement on Sunday evening making it clear that under their administration they would not oppose abortion in circumstances of rape. Mitt Romney added to that during an interview with National Review Online. He called Akin’s remarks “insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong.”
Some Republican leaders would like to see Akin drop out of the race because of the impact it could have on a national scale, but he won’t do it.
“I’m not a quitter. By the grace of God, we’re going to win this race.”
He will have to win the race without the support of prominent GOP leaders and without the help from some major Super PACs. These political action committees scrapped ad campaigns that were worth millions of dollars. Senators Scott Brown and Ron Johnson have both publicly called for Akin to resign.
Republicans were counting on the Missouri seat to help them secure the majority in the Senate. Tea Party activists that backed the Akin campaign and Republicans considered it the easiest of the Senate races to win, but now they are more concerned about the implications this could have on the race for the White House.
President Barack Obama and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Chair of the Democratic National Committee, have both made ties between Akin’s comments and the Republican Party’s policy on abortion and women’s health. Rep. Schultz accused the GOP of wanting to “take women back to the Dark Ages.” She made sure to mention that it is Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan that are leading a party that promotes dangerous policies concerning women’s health care in this country.