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.