There was a time when the GOP’s route to a majority ran through Missouri. Sen. Claire McCaskill is one of the more vulnerable incumbents in the country. Her deciding vote to approve ObamaCare is wildly unpopular in the state, whose voters passed a measure rejecting the health care law with more than 70% of the vote. The race was, literally, the GOP’s to lose. Unfortunately, the party has done just that.
Actually, the fault isn’t the party’s but its candidate, Rep. Todd Akin. As regular readers know, Rep. Akin went on a local public affairs show and tried to justify his opposition to a rape exemption to abortion on a weird medical theory that women only rarely get pregnant from rape. A firestorm immediately flared up and Akin’s campaign, which is run by his wife and 24-year old son, seemed unprepared to cauterize the wound he created. Major fundraising has dried up and national political organizations have vowed to stay out of the race as long as Akin remains the candidate.
This week at the RNC convention, I caught up with a senior aide for GOP Senate leadership who told me they were “preparing for being in the minority because of Missouri.” The aide admitted that some in the GOP overreacted by immediately going so public with their calls for Akin to step down, but that was just a tactical mistake. The real problem was Mike Huckabee’s rallying behind Akin and Akin’s insular campaign’s inability to see political reality.
There are other paths for the GOP to win control of the Senate. They are, however, more difficult to reach without Missouri. Huckabee’s political grandstanding and Akin’s personal ambition may ensure that Harry Reid stays Majority Leader. Sen. McCaskill once cast the deciding vote to enact ObamaCare. She may cast the deciding vote against its repeal.