Todd Akin's 'legitimate rape' claim: Will it cost Republicans the Senate?

The Missouri Republican makes a dubious statement about abortion, handing an unexpected lifeline to his Democratic opponent, embattled Sen. Claire McCaskill

Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) announces his candidacy for Senate, in Creve Coeur, Mo. in May 2011: Akin landed himself in hot water after making comments about rapes that result in pregnancy and whe
(Image credit: AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, file)

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is perhaps the most politically vulnerable Senate Democrat this year — or at least she was until Sunday, when her newly minted GOP challenger Rep. Todd Akin explained why he wants to ban all abortion, even in cases of rape: Such pregnancies are "really rare," he told local TV station KTVI-TV, because "if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." He added that if "that didn't work, or something... there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child." Akin later said he "misspoke," but the reaction from the political world was swift and brutal: With the exception of conservative pundit Dana Loesch, pretty much everybody condemned Akin's biologically untenable and politically problematic view on rape. Republican presidential aspirant Mitt Romney said he disagrees with Akin, Democrats mixed outrage with newfound optimism, and Republicans despaired and wondered if it's too late to switch candidates. "Well, there go Republican hopes for Senate control," tweeted Commentary's John Podhoretz. The GOP needs to pick up four seats to gain control of the Senate — did Akin's "legitimate rape" comment really sink their chances?

Yes. Akin is a goner: No wonder McCaskill wanted to run against Akin so badly, says Melinda Henneberger at The Washington Post. This isn't his first waltz into anti-abortion wackiness, and he "isn't the first abortion opponent with retro rape views," but that's cold comfort for the GOP. "If Akin doesn't get out of the race, he's likely to wind up like Claytie Williams, whose 1990 remark comparing bad weather to rape ('If it's inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it')" lost him the Texas gubernatorial race to Democrat Ann Richards.

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