Opinion Brief

'Legitimate rape': Should Todd Akin bow out of his Senate race?

The Missouri Republican's preposterous claims about rape and abortion could hurt the GOP's chances at winning the Senate — and the presidency

The Republican Party was in full damage control on Monday, with seemingly every card-carrying member of the GOP distancing themselves from controversial comments made by Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), who hopes to unseat Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in November. Akin has been widely pilloried for claiming that it's "really rare" for victims of "legitimate rape" to get pregnant, since "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." Akin's astonishing ignorance of the biological process of pregnancy, as well as his indifference to the plight of rape victims, has led prominent Republicans, including Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), to urge Akin to bow out of the race. Mitt Romney has called Akin's comments "inexcusable," while Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has not-so-subtly threatened to pull funding for Akin, who he cautions to "carefully consider what is best for him, his family, [and] the Republican Party." Akin, for his part, has apologized, but insists that he won't drop out. But is it time for Akin to step aside?

Yes. If Akin stays, he'll hand Democrats the Senate: "This isn't a gaffe," says Rick Moran at PJ Tatler. "It's a nuclear bomb." By issuing the "most ignorant and damaging statement I've ever heard a politician utter," Akin has made the "formerly very beatable incumbent" McCaskill a clear favorite. "While Akin may have locked up the anti-abortion vote with his outburst, he did himself no good with the vast majority of Missourians who believe that no woman or girl should have to bear the fruit of such a traumatic crime as rape." And without picking up Missouri, it will be near impossible for Republicans to achieve their goal of winning back the Senate.
"GOP senate candidate in Missouri: 'Legitimate' rape rarely causes pregnancy"

And he's hurting the Romney-Ryan ticket: Romney has distanced himself from Akin, but the congressman's comments could still "cause lasting damage" to Romney's campaign, says Richard Dunham at The Houston Chronicle. Paul Ryan, Romney's running mate, also opposes abortions even in cases of rape, and this controversy could reinforce the Democratic argument that Republicans are conducting a war on women. Furthermore, Ryan worked with Akin to propose legislation that would limit federal abortion funding to victims of "forcible rape," a disturbing echo of Akin's use of the offensive term "legitimate rape." As long as Akin is in the race, many voters will think Romney "consorts with misogynistic reactionaries."
"Six reasons why Todd Akin's 'legitimate rape' remark could haunt the GOP"

But Akin is unlikely to withdraw: "Akin is likely to join a list of Republican primary winners who have seized defeat from the jaws of victory," says John Podhoretz at Commentary. "Akin won't quit, though." At first, he issued a statement saying he merely mispoke, which "means he doesn't actually think he did anything wrong." Perhaps he'll be "comforted by that insane knowledge when he is sitting home, unemployed and disgraced, in 2013, with control of the Senate in Democratic hands because of him."
"The Todd Akin fiasco"

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

Recommended

Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone to testify before Jan. 6 committee
Pat Cipollone.
finally

Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone to testify before Jan. 6 committee

Lindsey Graham's attorneys say he'll challenge Georgia grand jury subpoena
Sen. Lindsey Graham.
see you in court

Lindsey Graham's attorneys say he'll challenge Georgia grand jury subpoena

Boris Johnson refuses to quit despite mass resignations
Boris Johnson
'he has lost it'

Boris Johnson refuses to quit despite mass resignations

Only 5 percent of Americans rank abortion as their biggest concern, poll finds
Pro-life demonstrators
moving the needle?

Only 5 percent of Americans rank abortion as their biggest concern, poll finds

Most Popular

Rogan says he's declined interviews with Trump: 'I don't want to help him'
Joe Rogan
not invited

Rogan says he's declined interviews with Trump: 'I don't want to help him'

Joey Chestnut body slams animal-rights protester, wins hot dog eating contest
Joey Chestnut
hot diggity dog

Joey Chestnut body slams animal-rights protester, wins hot dog eating contest

Theaters ban teens in suits from Minions after viral TikTok meme
Minions: The Rise of Gru
suit up

Theaters ban teens in suits from Minions after viral TikTok meme