Monday, August 20, 2012
Gotcha Morning | Todd Akin and 'Legitimate Rape'
The Sunday morning political shows spent a lot of time yesterday talking about Joe Biden's latest gaffes, Paul Ryan's plans for Medicare and the Obama vs. Romney welfare debate. But the most significant political TV moment yesterday aired on the local KTVI station in Missouri. That's where Tea Party-backed Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin defended his opposition to abortion even in cases of rape by saying that in cases of "legitimate rape" women almost never get pregnant. The sheer audacity and ignorance of this statement immediately eclipsed the issues of the presidential race and shifted the focus to this key Senate race. FiveThirtyEight's polling whiz Nate Silver tends to prefer hard data when he makes predictions, but on Twitter last night he moved the race from a "toss-up" to a two-to-one advantage for Akin's incumbent opponent Claire McCaskill based on these comments alone. Silver later posted an article on his New York Times blog comparing Akin to George "Macaca" Allen, who dropped more than ten points in his 2006 Senate race after making racist comments on the trail. The Morning Joe team took on the Akin story this morning, with John Heilemann pointing out Akin's ties to Paul Ryan and a bill they co-sponsored just last year, which introduced the concept of "forcible rape." When Joe Scarborough learned of Ryan's previously harsh positions on abortion, his "in the tank" fervor over Paul Ryan was swiftly brought back down to earth.
Unless Senator Claire McCaskill does something terribly wrong or the people of Missouri are far more conservative than anyone thought, Todd Akin's campaign should be effectively finished in that state. But the implications of his remarks for the presidential race remain an open question. There are no doubt moderate Republicans like Joe Scarborough around the country who saw in Paul Ryan a fiscally conservative candidate whose ideology could excite them more than Mitt Romney's seeming lack of principles ever could. But the light that Todd Akin has shone on the abortion debate will expose Paul Ryan's radical past on social issues that should move some of his enthusiasts back to the Obama camp. Mitt Romney can attach Ryan's name to statements like the tepid one the campaign put out yesterday distancing itself from Akin, but he can't erase his running mate's history.