Two weeks and a day ago Congressman Todd Akin (R) narrowly won the hard-fought Missouri Republican primary for the US Senate nomination. Akin was considered the most conservative of the three candidates vying for this nomination. He was not considered the first choice of national GOP leaders, but since those leaders remained hands-off on the nomination process that really didn’t matter much. The Democratic incumbent was not so impartial. Senator Claire McCaskill (D) placed her thumb firmly on the scale by running an attack ad against Akin the week before the primary. McCaskill’s campaign staff must have had their tongues placed firmly in their cheeks when they created this ad, because it accused Akin of all those values that conservatives hold most dearly. Whether the ad did its job or not, it certainly didn’t hurt and McCaskill got the adversary that she wanted.
Last Sunday, in an interview with the Saint Louis Fox affiliate, Akin spoke about “legitimate rape” and said women who are raped can’t get pregnant. His argument was both awfully expressed and patently wrong, but it also spoke to his core belief that not even rape victims should be permitted an abortion. Democratic condemnation of this was swift and nearly unanimous. One-by-one national GOP leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and presumptive Presidential nominee, Mitt Romney called for Akin to step aside. Meanwhile, Claire McCaskill argued that these outside interests should not be allowed to overrule the Missouri electorate.
File this under bad timing, but on Tuesday, the same day that Republican leaders were calling for Akin to withdraw, the GOP platform committee adopted a plank calling for a Constitutional Amendment outlawing all abortions, even in cases of rape. While polling shows that the American electorate is closely divided on the subject of abortion, the support for abortion in cases of rape is much greater. More significantly, among the Republican conservative base the issue of abortion in rape cases is a wedge issue. In these instances you have the issues of abortion and law & order competing with each other. Former prosecutor McCaskill is well positioned to drive this wedge home.
As I write this post, the Tuesday five o’clock deadline for Akin’s relatively painless exit from the race has come and gone. Akin was never beholding to his national GOP detractors, so why listen to them now? The RNSC and Karl Rove’s super-PAC have both announced that they will not support Akin’s campaign. This is likely just posturing and Akin seems ready to call their bluff. In the ever reddening state of Missouri, McCaskill’s seat was considered low hanging fruit in the GOP’s national campaign to retake the Senate. Even after all this hub-bub Akin is still polling ahead of McCaskill, but make no mistake, Akin’s Senate bid is toast. He is no longer a viable candidate. If you don’t believe me then trust in his party’s hierarchy.
I can write her winning campaign ad now. Replay Akin’s fateful interview with quotes from Romney, McConnell and Rove crawling across the screen. It is Akin’s bad luck that he fumbled on the week that Missouri native son Rush Limbaugh was on vacation.