Akin: ‘I will remain in the race’
UPDATE Tuesday 1:55 p.m. EST: Missouri GOP Senate nominee Todd Akin appeared on the Mike Huckabee Radio Show Tuesday afternoon and announced that he would stay in the race against Democrat Claire McCaskill.
Akin, in what can only be characterized as a state of denial, explained that he didn’t believe he should step down because he “misspoke one word in one sentence on one day.” Later Akin explained that it was an “overreaction” to expect him to step down for putting “one word” in the wrong place.
The congressman, of course, didn’t misplace a word or misspeak, he made obtuse and offensive (and what is likely politically suicidal) comments that will be roundly used to condemn him for the next three months. Moreover, the unpopular McCaskill, perhaps the luckiest politician in the country, can turn the words of Republicans on Akin, as well.
Huckabee asked Akin how he would run now that GOP groups have pulled out funding from the race. “What we’re seeing now,” he explained, “is a tremendous outpouring of support” from an “active and engaged grassroots movement” that will “stand up for what America is about.” He went on to say that his campaign was taking a stand that would “strengthen the country and the Republican Party.”
As proof of widespread support, Akin cited a recent poll conducted by the left-wing PPP — who, in an unheard of development oversampled Republicans in their poll — to abet Akin’s fantasy. A Survey USA poll, on the other hand, found that 54 percent of statewide respondents said Akin should drop out of the race and 55 percent don’t believe he “misspoke.” Not surprisingly, 76 percent disagree with his comments.
Well, as of this point, nearly every conservative and Tea Party group and nearly the entire Republican Party — including nearly every high profile GOP Missourian, including Roy Blunt, John Ashcroft, Kit Bond, John Danforth and Jim Talent – have called for Akin to step down. Without question, Republicans now face a tough road to regain the Senate.
UPDATE Tuesday 9:30 a.m. EST: Late Monday night, Missouri’s Republican senatorial candidate Todd Akin released a campaign ad (video below) asking voters to forgive him for the controversial remarks that threaten his Senate campaign. “I used the wrong words in the wrong way, and for that, I apologize. As the father of two daughters, I want tough justice for predators. I have a compassionate heart for the victims of sexual assault. I pray for them.”
Reportedly, vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan called Akin, presumably asking him to leave the race.
Self-flagellation on television does not exactly exude the kind of confidence voters look for in a candidate. But the real issue for the GOP is no longer forgiveness, but rather winning what should have been a slam dunk. A poll conducted yesterday by the liberal-leaning Public Policy Polling still has Akin — who was leading by over 10 points in some polls before the controversy — up one point over Claire McCaskill. What will polls say after a few weeks of ads that not only point out his comments, but also quote Republican money establishment figures bashing Akin? Moreover, at this point, with nearly the entire Republican established lined up against him, it will be almost impossible for the candidate to run a traditional campaign.
UPDATE Monday 5 p.m. EST: A long-time Missouri GOP insider tells Human Events that Akin is planning a prayer vigil for Monday night and meeting with his staff as he searches for a more graceful way to step out of the race. The source believes that Akin is coming to terms with his limited options and the prospect of the beleaguered candidate staying in the race past tomorrow is unlikely. What happens if he steps aside? John Gizzi explores the options.
UPDATE Monday 3:55 p.m. EST: Akin told Sean Hannity Monday afternoon on his radio show that, “I was told that there is a decision has to be made by 5 o’clock tomorrow, but I was calling you and letting you know that I’m announcing today that we’re (staying) in.” Akin said that he still believes he’s in the “strongest position” to win. Without support from the national party and the money that comes with it — not to mention, his own inanity — he is most definitely not in the strongest position to win. In fact, if he does follow through on his promise, he’s probably putting GOP control of the Senate in jeopardy. And now, Sen. Claire McCaskill will be able to run ad after ad quoting GOP lawmakers calling on Akin to leave the race. No doubt, Akin may still pull it out, but it will have a lot more to do with President Obama and McCaskill than his own compromised campaign.
UPDATE Monday 2:20 p.m. EST: So we had a full day of Republican Senators calling on Todd Akin to step aside. Scott Brown said: “There is no place in our public discourse for this type of offensive thinking.” Ron Johnson said Akin “should do the right thing for the nation and step aside today.” Mitch McConnell called Akin’s statements “totally inexcusable” and “wildly offensive” and that the congressman should reconsider his candidacy. John Cornyn, Chairman of the NRSC, asked Akin to move aside — nicely. Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS has pulled out.
Republicans have essentially pulled all national funding from Akin’s campaign. (Though Akin’s Twitter account is still asking for donations. “I am in this race to win. We need a conservative Senate. Help me defeat Claire by donating.”) So it’s not surprising that there are reports that Akin is preparing to step down tomorrow.
Though nothing official has come down from the candidate, it’s difficult to imagine any scenario in which he can continue to run an effective race — even against a candidate as weak as Claire McCaskill. If he steps aside, Missouri’s GOP state central committee would pick Akin’s replacement. Potential replacements include Sarah Palin endorsed Sarah Steelman and some people are talking up Jim Talent.
Whenever a politician uses the words “legitimate” and “rape” in tandem that politician has already lost whatever argument he’s in — and, in this case, he threatens to do considerable political damage to the pro-life cause and his party. So it goes with Missouri Republican Senate nominee Todd Akin, who, in an interview, engaged in a profoundly ridiculous conversation to explain his pro-life positions.
“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.” Akin backpedaled, saying he “misspoke” with “off-the-cuff remarks.”
A Romney spokesperson told CBS News, “Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape” and Romney told the National Review that the comments were “inexcusable.” That won’t stop the Obama campaign from trying to connect Akin to the campaign. And really, who can blame them for trying?
What most frustrates me about people who use pseudoscientific gibberish to make pro-life arguments is that they already have science on their side. Akin could have simply answered: Rape is a brutal crime, but compounding one tragedy with another does not undo the horrifying act. Though cases of pregnancy fr0m rape and incest are rare that doesn’t make the suffering of the victims any less devastating. But it also doesn’t change the fact that the vast majority of abortions are performed for the sake of societal or personal convenience. Science unequivocally tells us we are dealing with a vulnerable new life. How we deal with that new life says a lot about our morality.
That debate is for another post, though. Politically speaking, Akin might still might beat Obama acolyte Claire McCaskill if he stays in the race. But do conservatives really want a senator with these awful political instincts representing them? It’s one thing to bend to the mainstream media when they hype up innocent comments or take them out of context — but that isn’t the case this time.
Do conservatives want to risk losing a chance to take back the Senate by allowing these comments to fester until November? There is no God-given right to be a politician. If Akin cares about the issues he professes to care about he would step out of the race today.
Can Akin hurt Romney/Ryan? Yes. As National Journal correspondent Major Garrett reported, Akin’s comments make the Romney campaign “nervous”: “Democrats … are going to make the point, as they have consistently, that Mitt Romney and his own approach to abortion, even though it has evolved over time, may be out of step with where the majority of the country is from the Obama campaign’s point of view.
But Romney’s positions (today) aren’t out of step with Americans. A recent Gallup poll (see below) found that the 41 percent of Americans identify themselves as “pro-choice” is one percentage point below the previous record low in Gallup trends. Fifty percent of Americans now call themselves “pro-life” — one point shy of the record high. Allowing Akin’s comments to become the baseline for the political debate on abortion is dangerous for Romney.