As analysts make inferences based on last night's election results, one lesson has become resoundingly clear: Candidates shouldn't make ill-informed or offensive comments about rape or abortion. After Republican Senatorial candidates delivered several such widely-criticized remarks, inadvertently making national news, many Democrats repeated their cry that the GOP was waging a "war on women." Judging from the 5 key results below, voters may have agreed:
1. Todd Akin loses to Claire McCaskill in Missouri's Senate race
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) was widely regarded as one of the most politically vulnerable Democratic senators in this election cycle, but the gulf between McCaskill and Republican challenger Todd Akin grew after Akin made factually incorrect comments about rape-triggered pregnancies in August. (Such pregnancies are "really rare," declared Akin infamously, because "if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.") Though Mitt Romney carried Missouri with 53.9 percent of the presidential vote, McCaskill beat Akin by 15 points. "The voters in Missouri had a legitimate election to shut down Todd Akin," says Diana Reese in The Washington Post.
2. Richard Mourdock loses to Joe Donnelly in Indiana's Senate race
Akin wasn't the only Republican to derail his candidacy with controversial rape comments. When asked during an October debate whether abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or incest, Indiana Senate hopeful Richard Mourdock (R) replied that he had long "struggled" with that question, but "came to realize that life is that gift from God," and that "even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen." With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Democratic candidate Joe Donnelly has earned 49.9 percent of the vote, with Mourdock earning 44.4 percent. "Richard Mourdock brought this all on himself," said Indiana's Democratic Party chairman Daniel J. Parker in The New York Times.
3. Elizabeth Warren defeats Scott Brown in Massachusetts
Though Massachusetts' incumbent Sen. Scott Brown (R) didn't make any high-profile controversial remarks like Akin or Mourdock, his defeat by passionately pro-abortion-rights candidate Elizabeth Warren (D), who claimed 53.8 percent of the vote to Brown's 46.2 percent with 97 percent of precincts reporting, was hailed as another major victory by groups like Emily's List, which backs female candidates who support abortion rights, and Planned Parenthood's political action committee.
4. Roger Rivard loses to Steven Smith in Wisconsin
"It wasn't just the big names that pulled national attention where thoughtless comments about rape, abortion, or women in general had an impact," says Lindsay Cross at Mommyish. Wisconsin State Rep. Roger Rivard (R) earned national headlines after being quizzed about an anecdote in which he repeated his grandfather's warning that "some girls rape easy." (Translation: Some women, feeling remorseful after consensual sex, claim they had been raped instead). His loss to Democratic challenger Steven Smith shows that "across the board, where we saw offensive comments about women, we saw defeat," says Cross.
5. President Obama defeats Mitt Romney
For all the Senatorial races, "the biggest rebuke of the 'war on women" last night happened at the top of the ballot," says Cross at Mommyish. Romney has an "uneven and inconsistent record when it comes to women's health," and Paul Ryan is passionate anti-abortion, having worked on legislation to redefine rape and to introduce a federal personhood bill. Obama, by contrast, coasted to victory as a "vocal supporter of women's rights throughout his presidency."