, member of the United States House of Represe...

Time to “shut it down”?

The Missouri Senate seat held by Claire McCaskill was one being targeted by the Republicans this election.  Missouri historically is a swing state, McCaskill narrowly won in 2006, and she had been dogged by issues related to use of a private plane, including allegations that she failed to pay $280,000 in property taxes on the plane.

In short, McCaskill was vulnerable, and the Republicans were about to dump a ton of money into this race in an effort to tilt the balance of the Senate.  Representative Todd Akin emerged the winner of a three way primary and appeared to be on track to unseat the incumbent.

And then Sunday happened, and Akin uttered this quote in an interview.

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. – Representative Todd Akin

If you’re not familiar with the medical science Akin is referring to, don’t feel bad.  The reason you haven’t heard about it is because it’s not true.  Akin later apologized, saying that he misspoke.  This wasn’t a case of someone misspeaking.  Mitt Romney accidentally introducing Paul Ryan as the next president of the United States was an example of someone misspeaking.  Akin’s comments seemed well rehearsed – he meant what he said.  He was simply wrong.

Republicans Distancing Themselves

Republican leaders have been quick to criticize Akin’s comments.  There’s a very good reason for this – this don’t want to be associated with Akin in any way.  Membership in a political party creates a guilt by association (on the flip side, party members can claim credit for the good deeds of other party members).  While many Republicans may have abortion views that are somewhat similar to Akin’s, most (all?) don’t agree with his comments about a woman’s body being able to prevent pregnancy after a rape and they find the use of the term “legitimate rape” to be offensive.

In or Out?

Until 5 PM today, Akin can withdraw from the race fairly easily.  After 5 PM, it would require a court order and he would be forced to pay for the re-printing of any ballots.  To this point, Akin has been insistent that he will stay in the race.  Republicans are trying to get him to withdraw so that they can replace him with an unsoiled candidate.  On CBS radio news this morning, they reported that a Republican operative was frustrated after conversions with Akin.  The operative was quoted as saying “you can’t reason with an idiot.”

His opponent, McCaskill, agrees with him, stating that the voters chose him and they have a right to have him on the ballot in November.  The fact that she’s be able to hit him over the head with this issue repeatedly definitely works to her advantage.

, U.S. Senator.

Senator Claire McCaskill

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has told Akin that if he stays in the race, they will not back him.  For those who aren’t familiar with this group, they raise a large amount of funds at a national level, and then spend it on races where the money can make a difference in determining the outcome.  (Yes, the Democrats have a similar group, and there are corresponding groups for the House.)  Without the support of the NRSC, Akin would be limited to whatever funds he can raise (or borrow) on his own – putting him at a decided disadvantage, since the National Democratic Senatorial Committee will almost certainly spend money to support McCaskill.

Even if Akin drops out of the race, McCaskill is likely in the position of advantage.  Whomever is picked as a replacement will not have received a plurality of support in the primary – and may not have even participated in the primary.  McCaskill could attack the Republicans as circumventing the traditional process by hand-selecting her opponent, rather than letting the voters decide.

In the end, the Republicans are between a rock and a hard place, although having Akin drop out would probably be best for them.

Effects on the Presidential Race

Missouri is one of just a handful of states that is truly up for grabs in the presidential election.  The majority of states are pretty solidly red or blue.  Recent polling in the state shows a virtual dead heat between Romney and Obama.  It’s possibly that Akin’s statement may cause some undecided voters in the state to have a negative opinion of the Republican party as a whole – causing them to either flip to Obama or simple staying away from the polls.  If Obama wins an electoral college squeaker due to a narrow win in Missouri, Todd Akin’s comments might be what puts him over the top – another reason why the Republicans are desperate for Akin to drop out.

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