Yesterday, Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin went on a local public affairs show in St. Louis with, at most, 12 convalescent viewers and gave birth to the mother of all campaign gaffes in 2012. Responding to a question about rape exceptions to abortion, something asked of every GOP candidate since Roe v Wade, Akin said something about how in “legitimate rapes” pregnancies are very rare. There are at least three serious things wrong with Akin’s answer, but let’s put those aside for now. His candidacy is over. So, what happens now?
At some point before 5pm CDT tomorrow, Akin will file papers to formally withdraw his name from the ballot. I realize today Akin was defiant and said he wasn’t a “quitter.” His supporters claim he will stay in the race because he views his candidacy as “providential”, but this is just the bluster before the end. Everyone is entitled to 24 hours to try to right their ship, but Akin did nothing today to cauterize the wound. When Reince Priebus, Ann Coulter, NRSC and Tea Party Express are all united in saying you should quit, you’ve pretty much run out of options.
My friend Ace summed up the need for Akin to withdraw best:
This is deadly goddamned serious business. This is the country we’re talking about.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is the most vulnerable Democrat on the ballot this November. If you or I suddenly appeared on the ballot against her, we would be up 10 points in the polls. The GOP is often called the “stupid party”, but they aren’t that stupid. As you read this calls are being made across Missouri, smoothing Akin’s exit and deciding on a replacement candidate.
After Akin withdraws the decision to name a replacement falls to the 71 members of the state GOP central committee. [See update] Speculation is currently focused on two candidates Akin defeated in the recent GOP primary; businessman Jim Brunner and former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman.
Brunner had the backing of many GOP insiders because of his ability to partially self-fund his race. Steelman had the backing of Sarah Palin. They both lost to Akin in large part because Sen. McCaskill ran a lot of ads “attacking” him for being too conservative. (Think of it as a Republican dog-whistle.) Among the two, Steelman probably has the edge as the GOP may want to put the Akin debacle to rest by nominating a woman. It is also expected that Palin would campaign aggressively for Steelman, which would be helpful as 2012 is turning out to be a base election.
Other names being floated include former Sen. John Ashcroft and former Ambassador Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO). Wagner is the current GOP candidate to replace Akin in the House. One can readily imagine a deal where Wagner gets the nod to run for Senate and Akin gets to nod to reclaim his old House seat. A grand bargain for the Grand Old Party.
Former Sen. Jim Talent, who lost to McCaskill in 2006, has already announced he won’t seek the nomination.
Our nation stands at a crossroads. To have any hope of reclaiming the American dream for our children, we have to hold our majority in the House, take control of the Senate and win the White House. And, pulling that political inside straight only gives us about a 50/50 chance to fix what’s gone wrong in our country. But, we need to get to that point merely to start the battle to renew America.
By 5pm CDT Tuesday, we’ll know if we still at least have a chance.
Update: I originally had an incorrect number for members of the MO GOP Central Committee. The roster of members can be found here. Thanks to @phlchristo for the correction.