It seems like just about every Republican but Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) wants Todd Akin to drop out of the race to unseat vulnerable Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) — after all, his preposterous comments about the contraceptive powers of "legitimate rape" could cost the GOP control of the Senate. Still, Akin is holding firm. He told conservative radio hosts Sean Hannity and Mike Huckabee on Monday that he's staying in the race, and begged voters for forgiveness in a new ad. Indeed, a PPP "flash poll" Monday night still found him ahead of McCaskill, 44 percent to 43 percent. Tuesday evening is the cutoff for Akin to bow out of the race without having to go to court, and several high-profile Republican lawmakers, candidates, and financial backers, as well as conservative heavyweights like Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, and the editors of National Review, are stridently urging him to meet that deadline. Aside from the obvious reason — in spite of the flash poll, Akin could lose — here are four explanations for why Republicans so desperately want Akin to quit:
1. He's a drag on the national ticket
At a time when GOP presidential aspirant Mitt Romney wants to be talking about the economy and gearing up for his big convention next week, "rape and pregnancy have suddenly become issues of national discussion," says Chris Good at ABC News. Akin's comments sidelined Romney's message, blunted the buzz about Paul Ryan as Mitt's running mate, and highlighted the close ideological and legislative ties between Akin and Ryan on abortion. It also drove a wedge between Romney, who disavowed Akin's views, and the "large percentage of the conservative Republican base" that agrees with the congressman, says Richard Dunham in the Houston Chronicle. "As a former supporter of abortion rights, Romney doesn't want to be highlighting areas where he still disagrees with" his base.
2. Akin resurrected the "war on women" narrative
It's not only Akin's message that's hurting his party — he's "caused immeasurable damage because of the timing of his remarks as well," says Charlie Mahtesian at Politico. "At a time when part of the Democratic message is that the GOP is conducting a 'war on women,' Akin has provided Democrats with a limitless supply of ammunition for use against GOP candidates." Republicans already face a daunting gender gap in the polls, and "Akin has provided Democrats with an opportunity to drive the wedge deeper."
3. He damages the whole anti-abortion movement
"For people who don't follow the anti-choice movement closely, this statement might be a stunner," says Amanda Marcotte at The American Prospect. It "makes no biological sense" and slanders the more than 32,000 American rape victims who get pregnant each year. But Akin's isn't a fringe position in the GOP or anti-abortion movement, it's just an unpopular one that they don't want to talk about in public. Now we're talking about little else.
4. There's no telling how much damage he could still do
"Even if Akin hadn't exposed that he holds this controversial view, his candidacy wouldn't have been a cakewalk," says Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo. That's because "his record is thick with the sort of fringe views" that tend to sink Republicans. And while it would be bad for the GOP if Akin stays in the race and loses, it might be worse if he wins, says Philip Klein at The Washington Examiner. "Anybody capable of making a statement as simultaneously offensive and moronic as Akin's is likely to make more such statements," and if he hangs on and beats McCaskill "he's likely to embarrass his party for six years."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How the South's ugly racial history is haunting ObamaCare
- What if Leo Strauss was right?
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- If Democrats abandon immigration reform after Tuesday's likely loss, they will turn 2016 into a debacle
- Stop making fun of philosophy and read some philosophy
- Beware of Splenda: The backlash against artificial sugars
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Feast your eyes on this beautiful linguistic family tree
- 10 things you need to know today: October 31, 2014
- The 7 best Halloween-themed editorial cartoons
Subscribe to the Week