It was the gaffe heard-round the political world. In an interview with a local St. Louis public affairs show aired Sunday, Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin gave an absurd and, to many, offensive answer to the question of an abortion exemption for rape. While most anger was focused on the use of the word "legitimate" as a qualifier for rape, Akin's entire statement was disturbing. In the aftermath of the scandal, Akin defied all rational political thought or analysis and committed to staying in the race. According to a new poll, the Senate seat in Missouri has now swung decisively to the Democrats.
Today, Rasmussen released its latest survey of the U.S. Senate race in Missouri. In just a few days, Sen. Claire McCaskill has surged to a 10-point lead over Akin, 48-38. Previous Rasmussen polls had consistently shown Akin ahead of McCaskill by 5-8 points. Prior to Akin's gaffe, the seat had been a near-certain pick-up for the GOP, as McCaskill is one of the more unpopular incumbents in the country. Akin, however, has single-handedly made the seat one of the safest for the Democrats to hold this November.
A 15 to 20 point swing in the polls in a matter of days is obviously unusual. It requires a large number of voters who had previously supported a candidate to change their minds. Once a voter has moved from a supporter of a candidate to opposing them, it is extremely hard to get them back. With Akin's financial support drying up, it will be impossible for him to do so. With Akin as the candidate, the GOP's path to a Senate majority will have to by-pass Missouri.
Akin has tried to brush off the gaffe as an error of "one word" in "one sentence." But, the word "legitimate" is only the first problem with his answer. The worse part was his explaining that pregnancies are rare in rapes because the woman's body has means of preventing it. This.Is.Crazy.
There is a very simple reason that many pro-life supporters don't endorse an exemption for rape. It is because life is a life, no matter the circumstances of its origin. Punishment for rape should fall on the rapist, not an unborn child. There is no need to resort to a crack-pot scientific theory to justify opposing such an exemption.
The voter's rejection of Akin isn't really about abortion. It isn't even about whether or not there should be a rape exemption for abortions. These issues are well established and understood by all sides of the debate. They don't lend themselves to double-digit swings in the polls. The rejection is about fitness for office. For Missouri voters, Akin is unfit to serve in the Senate.
Akin has vowed to stay in the race, saying that "party bigwigs" are the only ones trying to push him out. In the end, its the divine word of voters who matter most. And, they are speaking rather loudly; Akin must go.
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