I have some common-sense, but apparently very sorely needed, advice for Republican lawmakers: You have one position and one position only on rape: it is bad. That’s it. If anyone asks you, you say it is a tragedy that no woman (or man, for that matter) should live through and your prayers go out to victims. Many on the right are, justifiably, frustrated that reporters continue to ask questions of candidates and lawmakers on rape, but, in the media’s defense, when Republicans keep giving answers as stupid as those of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, it’s hard to blame them.
Unfortunately for Republicans, another lawmaker has weighed in the rape issue, this time Representative Phil Gingrey of Georgia. The Marietta Daily Journal reports:
Sen. John Cornyn, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, issued the following statement after last night’s Senate defeats (via Politico):
We had many hard-fought races tonight and I’m proud to welcome several new Republicans to the Senate, particularly my fellow Texan Ted Cruz.
But it’s clear that with our losses in the Presidential race, and a number of key Senate races, we have a period of reflection and recalibration ahead for the Republican Party. While some will want to blame one wing of the party over the other, the reality is candidates from all corners of our GOP lost tonight. Clearly we have work to do in the weeks and months ahead.
Politico’s Alexander Burns adds:
Remember that Obama campaign memo a few weeks back that insisted the president was having no problems with women voters? About that:
Less than two weeks out from Election Day, Republican Mitt Romney has erased President Barack Obama’s 16-point advantage among women, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows. And the president, in turn, has largely eliminated Romney’s edge among men.
Those churning gender dynamics leave the presidential race still a virtual dead heat, with Romney favored by 47 percent of likely voters and Obama by 45 percent, a result within the poll’s margin of sampling error, the survey shows.
Fortunately for Democrats, Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s controversial comments about abortion gave Obama an opportunity to rehash his favorite “war on women” arguments on Jay Leno last night:
As Jonathan mentioned earlier, if on November 7 the Republicans find themselves still in the minority in the Senate, they will have two people to thank: Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana. Both candidates, in the midst of their election campaigns, made incredibly ill-advised comments on their beliefs about exemptions for abortion in the case of rape.
Akin’s comments in late August received overwhelming condemnation–and quickly–as Republicans across the country called for his immediate withdrawal. In August I wrote about how Republicans, unlike Democrats, were quick to ask a candidate to withdraw their candidacy after ignorant and offensive comments were made. Akin remains a pariah with very little assistance either financially or otherwise from Republicans or conservative leaders, while Joe Biden (who has made something of a sport out of making offensive pronouncements) proudly maintains his position on President Obama’s ticket.
Republican hopes for taking back the Senate this year have absorbed a variety of blows in the past several months. Olympia Snowe’s retirement and Todd Akin’s comments about pregnancy and rape dramatically reduced the chances of a GOP takeover. But Richard Mourdock’s saying that a pregnancy caused by rape is something that God intended to happen may have been the coup de grace. Here’s the quote from an answer to a question about his opposition to even the rape exception on abortion:
I’ve struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.
Mourdock, who toppled longtime moderate GOP incumbent Richard Lugar in a Republican primary, was locked in an unexpectedly tight race with Democrat Joe Donnelly even before last night. Donnelly has benefited from Lugar’s petulant refusal to endorse Mourdock, something that fed the perception that the Republican was a Tea Party extremist. But saying something that could be interpreted as meaning that he believed God intended rape to happen could tip the balance in the election. The loss of the Indiana seat would make it almost impossible for the Republicans to get to 50 or 51 even if they were able to pull off upsets in Ohio and Connecticut and hold onto Scott Brown’s endangered Massachusetts seat.
When outgoing GOP Senator Richard Lugar lost his primary election to Richard Mourdock earlier this year, there was an unusual amount of disingenuous garment rending over the supposed death of bipartisanship due to the increasingly conservative nature of the Republican Party.
Yet there will be no sad songs for outgoing Democratic Congressman Heath Shuler. While the media was focused on the dwindling of moderate Republicans, they missed the fact that pro-life Democrats and moderate Democrats virtually disappeared completely. Yet Shuler’s retirement from Congress is notable in that he was the last remaining Democrat willing to challenge Nancy Pelosi. And his defeat at the hands of my-way-or-the-highway liberalism should have been a far bigger story—if the media’s concerns were at all honest—than the defeat of an eighty-year-old officeholder.
Politico reports that on his way out the door, Shuler shows actual concern for bipartisanship:
Richard Mourdock’s decisive Republican primary victory over six-term Indiana Senator Richard Lugar was fretted by the D.C. foreign-policy establishment as yet another death knell for comity in Washington. But it turned out that it was Lugar, not Mourdock, who eschewed civility and grace with an angry and bitter response to the election.
Politico reports that time has not yet healed Lugar’s wounds or his ego. In his last months in the Senate, he has turned his attention to cementing his legacy abroad while Mourdock is locked in a close, and “costly,” general election fight. It’s true that Lugar has left at least one important legacy: his efforts, along with Democratic Senator Sam Nunn, to gain control of the collapsing Soviet Union’s nuclear material. But that was two decades ago, and in the foreign policy community the phrase “Nunn-Lugar” is a household term, and as such his legacy is in no need, and arguably cannot even really benefit, from his farewell tour. Instead, there is another legacy Lugar can cement in the coming months, and it isn’t a good one. From Politico:
Some liberals are trying to interpret the crushing defeat of six-term Republican Richard Lugar in an Indiana Republican senatorial primary as the creation of an opportunity for the Democrats to steal a GOP seat this fall. But the narrative being promoted today about rabid Tea Party extremists sacrificing another noble Republican moderate shows just how out of touch liberal theorists are with the country. Lugar was the ultimate establishment insider and President Obama’s favorite Republican when he was in the Senate. While there is something to be said for experience, this inveterate compromiser and foreign policy “realist” was a holdover from a bygone era in which members of the senatorial club thought of themselves as operating above and beyond the constraints of normal political life. Which is to say Lugar had outlived his usefulness to the people of Indiana a long time ago.
Equally foolish is the idea that the man who beat him, State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, is likely to face the fate of 2010 Republican outliers like Sharon Angle in Nevada or Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, whose extremism cost their parties easy general election victories. Mourdock is an experienced office-holder whose mainstream conservative views make him a perfect match for his state and likely to cruise to victory in the fall. The Mourdock triumph as well as the victory for supporters of traditional marriage in North Carolina is also a reminder that while this year will not be a repeat of the GOP’s midterm tsunami, it is also going to be nothing like 2008 when Obama won both states.
With polls showing six-term incumbent Republican Senator Richard Lugar to be a heavy underdog in his Indiana primary race with insurgent State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, many in the media are weeping bitter tears about the end of an era in Washington. After six terms in which he has increasingly come to be seen as part of the Senate furniture, it is not surprising that a likely plurality of Indiana voters are ready to turn him out. But to listen to the anguished reaction from pundits who are sympathetic to Lugar, his opponent’s supporters are nothing less than right-wing Jacobins who are sacrificing a sage statesman on the altar of extremism. But as much as that fits the mainstream media’s story line about the evil influence of the Tea Party on American politics, the truth is not quite that dramatic.
Lugar is the ultimate establishmentarian and the voice of conventional wisdom about any conceivable topic–especially foreign policy. He is also well-liked for his reputation for bipartisan cooperation. Though we are told Washington will be the poorer if there are fewer or no Lugars at all, the taxpayers as well as those sick of his knee-jerk foreign policy “realism” must be forgiven if they point out there is a difference between being the ultimate D.C. insider and the sort of politics of integrity we are told he embodies. Far from this being a case where the Tea Partiers are rolling out the guillotine for a brave voice of principle, what is going on in Indiana is merely the inevitable fate of any politician who overstays his welcome while standing for little but the continuation of business as usual on Capitol Hill.
Because the Republican Party will nominate the one candidate who, at least at the outset of the contest, Tea Partiers seemed to have the least affinity for, many political observers have concluded that the movement’s time has come and gone. But as the results from a number of Senate races testify, reports of the Tea Party’s demise are, at best, premature. In Utah, longtime incumbent Senator Orrin Hatch is being forced into a Republican primary to hold on to his seat. But an even better argument for the group as a force that should be reckoned with came in Pennsylvania, where the state GOP establishment’s choice was humiliated in a primary yesterday to determine the party’s nominee to oppose Senator Bob Casey.
While the Pennsylvania GOP Senate race received minimal attention even in the Keystone state, the collapse of Governor Tom Corbett’s attempt to handpick an unknown for the nomination is noteworthy. Corbett and the state party wanted Steve Welch, a 35-year-old entrepreneur who was a registered Democrat as recently as 2009. But Tea Party activists embraced Tom Smith, a coal millionaire from the Western region of the state. Though Smith, 64, was a lifelong Democrat, he was able to harness the anger of the party’s grass roots and won by a huge margin over Welch, and Sam Rohrer, a state representative who also sought to appeal to Tea Partiers.