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How Hannity, Rove, and Romney became the liberal elite
In Todd Akin's world, the top GOP leaders kicking him toward the exits are actually left-wing powerbrokers trying to sabotage the conservative cause
Paul Brandus
Paul Brandus

"We can't be intimidated by the liberal elite," Todd Akin tweeted Tuesday night, before asking for $10,000 in contributions. "Thank you for standing up against the liberal elite," he followed up later.

When did Sean Hannity, Karl Rove, Mitch McConnell, and Mitt Romney become part of the "liberal elite?" In the wake of the Toddster's bumbling "legitimate rape" remark, those four powerful Republicans have all called on him to bail on his Missouri Senate race so the state GOP can replace him with a presumably tighter-lipped rival to unseat Democrat Claire McCaskill in November.

Akin: "The liberal media is trying to make me drop out."

McConnell: "It is time for Congressman Akin to step aside."

Akin: "I am in this race to win."

Hannity: "I would put the good of the party, as unfair as it is, above whatever my personal ambition is."

Akin: "A lot of negativity has been driven my way by the liberal elite."

Romney:  "Today, his fellow Missourians urged him to step aside. I think he should accept their counsel and exit the Senate race."

Yes, congressman, it's the lefties who are out to get you.

Of course, aside from the Republican cold shoulder, Akin's true problem — besides his embarrassing, ignorant, misogynistic views on women, biology, and the criminal code — is one of poor timing. If he had made his appallingly stupid and insulting comment 12 months before election day, as opposed to 12 weeks, it's doubtful that the self-righteous indignation of Hannity, McConnell, and Romney would be quite so evident.

Todd Akin is a human "refresh button" for undecided voters who might have forgotten about hateful comments made about women by Rush Limbaugh.

It certainly wasn't in 2007, in the middle of Sen. David Vitter's six-year Senate term, when Louisiana's randy Republican was snared in the "D.C. Madam" prostitution scandal. What did Republicans do? They raised $161,700 for his 2010 re-election effort. One of his most prominent supporters was Texas Sen. John Cornyn, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). Cornyn's response to Akin now? Hit the road. Because Akin screwed up so close to November 6, the Republicans have bigger fish to fry — and Akin's expendable. Memo to the congressman: Next time you stick your foot in your mouth, do it when election day's a long way off. It'll be a heck of a lot easier to sweep under the rug.

Akin's view — and he's right about this — is that he hasn't done anything illegal or unethical. Tongue-tied stupidity isn't against the law, and if the good people of Missouri want to judge Akin in a broader context, as he has argued, then they can decide for themselves whether he's their man when they head to the ballot box in November. Akin's strategy is to hang tough and play for time. But the loss of $5 million in funding from the NRSC and more from Rove's all-powerful super PAC American Crossroads (which has already spent $4.5 million) may force the issue. No money, no TV ads. No TV ads, your opponent owns the discussion. Christmas has come early, it seems, for Claire McCaskill.  

Todd Akin is a human "refresh button" for undecided voters who might have forgotten about hateful comments made about women by Rush Limbaugh, or the "No Girls Allowed" sign hung by the House Oversight and Government Reform committee when it invited five men but no women to testify at a hearing on birth control back in February.

Akin has tried to change the narrative in recent days by arguing that voters care more about jobs and the economy than his verbal gaffes. He is right about this as well, though it's worth noting that at 7.2 percent, Missouri's unemployment rate is significantly lower it was than it was when Barack Obama became president, when it stood at 8.6 percent. Akin's argument that Missourians are worse off under Obama may not pass muster.

He — and Republicans at large — have also tried to deflect attention from their problems with women by reminding them that under Obama, more women have lost their jobs then men. This is an accurate statement but a deceiving one. Men, who tend to make more, get laid off first in a downturn, and that's what happened during the 2007-09 crash. By the time Obama took over, employers began axing the women.

Bottom line: Women don't buy the Republican argument that they are worse off under Obama. A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll puts the president ahead of Romney among women by a margin of 54 percent to 39 percent — and that's before the Akin matter erupted. Romney has enough problems with the ladies — no wonder he's eager to toss Akin overboard.

Romney is also irritated, of course, because the Akin matter has blown up between two events that he hoped would give his campaign a boost: His selection of Paul Ryan for VP and next week's Republican convention. Instead, new attention is being focused on Romney's own attitudes toward women — namely, his vow to wipe out federal funding for Planned Parenthood and appoint as many anti-abortion judges to the Supreme Court as he can.  Aides are said to be already researching possible nominees. Don't expect Akin's name to be on the list.

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.

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