Missouri Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin (R) is staying in the race, he stated today on The Dana Show and The Mike Huckabee Show. “I haven’t done anything morally or ethically wrong,” said Akin to Huckabee, two days after commenting on local television that in cases of “legitimate rape … the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Akin, who has apologized for the comments, insisted that the media backlash against him has been “a little bit of an overreaction.”
Akin also said, “We believe this stand is going to strengthen our country, going to strengthen, ultimately, the Republican Party.”
That’s not what the Republican Party believes, to be sure. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said yesterday on national television that Akin should drop out of the race, and shouldn’t show up to the Republican National Convention. Senators Scott Brown (R-MA) and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) called on Akin to leave. American Crossroads, a super PAC run by Karl Rove, said they’d pull their cash out of the campaign; so did the National Republican Senatorial Committee. In fact, there was virtual unanimity across the conservative spectrum that Akin should drop out.
The Democratic Party, though, is eager to keep Akin in the race. In fact, they spent some $1.5 million in the Republican Missouri primaries to boost him to victory over two other candidates. And Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), his incumbent Democratic opponent, has carefully avoided calling for Akin to step aside.
The fallout for Republican hopes to win a Senate majority are severe. Earlier this morning, pollster Larry Sabato moved the Missouri Senate race from a leaning Republican race to a toss up. Snap polls show Akin’s support dropping dramatically. And he’ll have far less money to spend now that vast swaths of the conservative movement have pulled out of his race.
And Akin’s remarks are already being exploited by the left, which desperately wants to link Akin to the Romney-Ryan presidential ticket. This morning at a Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) rally, an airplane flew by trailing a banner: “ROMNEY RYAN AKIN – WRONG FOR WOMEN.” That’s what Republicans can expect with Akin staying in the race, despite their strong denunciations and his apologies.
Akin’s remarks were offensive; more importantly, they painted his positions on abortion as extreme rather than well-reasoned and mainstream. That forced Mitt Romney to stake out territory on abortion that is at war with the Republican Party platform; Romney has said that he supports legal abortion in cases of rape, where the Party platform doesn’t.
If Akin’s stubbornness loses Republicans the Senate, Obamacare will remain on the books for good. And if Akin’s idiocy has any ripple effect on the top of the ticket, the White House may be at stake, too. Akin’s comments had the singular effect of killing obvious Romney-Ryan momentum going into the Republican National Convention and allowing Barack Obama’s campaign to shift from economic discussions to more controversial social issues.