Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is perhaps the most politically vulnerable Senate Democrat this year — or at least she was until Sunday, when her newly minted GOP challenger Rep. Todd Akin explained why he wants to ban all abortion, even in cases of rape: Such pregnancies are "really rare," he told local TV station KTVI-TV, because "if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." He added that if "that didn't work, or something... there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child." Akin later said he "misspoke," but the reaction from the political world was swift and brutal: With the exception of conservative pundit Dana Loesch, pretty much everybody condemned Akin's biologically untenable and politically problematic view on rape. Republican presidential aspirant Mitt Romney said he disagrees with Akin, Democrats mixed outrage with newfound optimism, and Republicans despaired and wondered if it's too late to switch candidates. "Well, there go Republican hopes for Senate control," tweeted Commentary's John Podhoretz. The GOP needs to pick up four seats to gain control of the Senate — did Akin's "legitimate rape" comment really sink their chances?
Yes. Akin is a goner: No wonder McCaskill wanted to run against Akin so badly, says Melinda Henneberger at The Washington Post. This isn't his first waltz into anti-abortion wackiness, and he "isn't the first abortion opponent with retro rape views," but that's cold comfort for the GOP. "If Akin doesn't get out of the race, he's likely to wind up like Claytie Williams, whose 1990 remark comparing bad weather to rape ('If it's inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it')" lost him the Texas gubernatorial race to Democrat Ann Richards.
"Say goodnight, Todd Akin"
Don't count him out yet: "This blunder is going to cost Akin dearly with female voters, but the race is still a toss-up," says Josh Kraushaar at National Journal. "Missouri is a Republican-trending state," and McCaskill is still as unpopular as she was before Akin made his rape comment. Remember, the incumbent owes her narrow 2006 win to a "surprisingly strong performance" in the socially conservative rural parts of Missouri, and "this controversy may not resonate as strongly in those parts of the state as it is currently in Washington."
"Is Todd Akin toast in Missouri?"
Republicans are panicking for good reason: This is "just the latest in a string of unforced errors" by Akin, says David Catanese at Politico. If he uses this latest and biggest flub "as a wake-up call to steer his campaign back to fiscal issues and McCaskill's support for President Obama," he may be able to recover. But that's a big "if." And "if Akin fumbles his shot at a race GOP operatives felt supremely confident about just a month ago, it's difficult to see how the party converts the four pick-ups it needs to wrest back Senate control."
"Todd Akin's rape remark has GOP fretting"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How Ronald Reagan turned America into a nation of children
- Why Mitt Romney is perfectly poised for a comeback in 2016
- The Nazi smart bomb that inspired China's most dangerous weapon
- The crusade against Iraq War supporters has forgotten someone: Hillary Clinton
- 8 things the world's most extraordinary survivors can teach you about resilience
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- Why is the West so afraid of Islam?
- Why scientists can't kill HIV
- How to make classic pulled pork
- This week I learned the moon might be littered with dinosaur fossils, and more
Subscribe to the Week