Commentary Magazine


Topic: Todd Akin

The GOP’s Moron Factor

Republicans have spent the last several months arguing about the lessons of the 2012 election with both establishment types and grass roots activists mixing it up on a variety of issues. But if there was one conclusion that surely everyone in the party agreed upon it was that GOP candidates and officials needed to avoid mentioning rape, especially when discussing their opposition to abortion. The spectacular idiocy of Missouri senatorial candidate Todd Akin—who publicly doubted that women could become pregnant as a result of rape—didn’t just transform his opponent Claire McCaskill from a certain loser to an easy winner and sink Indiana Republican Richard Mourdock, when the latter said something not quite as foolish. It also allowed Democrats to trash all Republicans as Neanderthal nitwits seeking to abuse women.

But apparently Arizonan Republican Representative Trent Franks didn’t get the memo. Franks demonstrated that yesterday when he claimed during a Judiciary Committee debate that the incidence of pregnancy from rape is “very low.” But Franks had to repeat the assertion even in a later clarification before he realized what he had done. With a single phrase, Franks had handed Democrats on the committee and elsewhere a chance to revive their fake “War on Women” theme that helped mobilize the Democratic base in 2012. Though it can be asserted that they didn’t need any new excuses to try the same tactic in 2014, Franks has made it a lot easier. Just as was the case in 2012, Republicans are learning the hard way that foolish statements—even if they are ripped out of their context or unfairly characterized—allow Democrats to change the subject from serious moral issues to a topic they’d rather talk about: why some Republicans are morons.

Read More

Republicans have spent the last several months arguing about the lessons of the 2012 election with both establishment types and grass roots activists mixing it up on a variety of issues. But if there was one conclusion that surely everyone in the party agreed upon it was that GOP candidates and officials needed to avoid mentioning rape, especially when discussing their opposition to abortion. The spectacular idiocy of Missouri senatorial candidate Todd Akin—who publicly doubted that women could become pregnant as a result of rape—didn’t just transform his opponent Claire McCaskill from a certain loser to an easy winner and sink Indiana Republican Richard Mourdock, when the latter said something not quite as foolish. It also allowed Democrats to trash all Republicans as Neanderthal nitwits seeking to abuse women.

But apparently Arizonan Republican Representative Trent Franks didn’t get the memo. Franks demonstrated that yesterday when he claimed during a Judiciary Committee debate that the incidence of pregnancy from rape is “very low.” But Franks had to repeat the assertion even in a later clarification before he realized what he had done. With a single phrase, Franks had handed Democrats on the committee and elsewhere a chance to revive their fake “War on Women” theme that helped mobilize the Democratic base in 2012. Though it can be asserted that they didn’t need any new excuses to try the same tactic in 2014, Franks has made it a lot easier. Just as was the case in 2012, Republicans are learning the hard way that foolish statements—even if they are ripped out of their context or unfairly characterized—allow Democrats to change the subject from serious moral issues to a topic they’d rather talk about: why some Republicans are morons.

Can it be that conservatives have already forgotten how one ill-considered vulgar insult uttered by Rush Limbaugh diverted the public’s attention from the Obama administration’s attack on the religious freedom of Catholics and others who opposed its Health and Human Services mandate? In the space of a couple of days, instead of a national debate about the way ObamaCare was violating religious liberty and imposing a burden on Catholic institutions to pay for services that violated their consciences we got a full-scale argument about the way Republicans were oppressing women. Liberal activist Sandra Fluke was transformed into a feminist hero instead of being mocked, as she should have been, for her upper-middle-class plea for free birth control.

It is true that this was largely the work of a mainstream liberal media that preferred to demonize conservatives rather than to focus on a threat to religious freedom, but surely Rush and others on the right were already aware that the world isn’t fair and that they must always remember that the media playing field is tilted against them. Anyone who doesn’t already know this isn’t smart enough to be in Congress. It was in the context of that gaffe that Akin’s comments and those of Mourdock became a rallying cry from Democrats last fall.

Franks has done something just as stupid. His remarks came in the middle of a debate about a bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks including those as a result of rape or incest. Abortion rights advocates view any attempt to restrict the procedure in much the same manner as the National Rifle Association sees even the most reasonable regulations of guns, and it is to be expected that this measure will be fought tooth and nail. The wisdom of the 20-week bill can be debated, but it is part of a necessary discussion about the morality of late-term abortions in an era when medical advances have changed the way we look at such pregnancies. Yet rather than discuss the fact that babies aborted after 20 weeks are likely to be viable human beings—a fact that was highlighted during the Kermit Gosnell trial—the national discussion has turned again to Republicans and rape.

In his defense, Franks is right to assert that the instances of a rape victim waiting until 20 weeks to have an abortion are probably quite rare. But that wasn’t what he said at first. What he did utter was close enough to Akin’s infamous crack that it ensured that he would be the latest Republican turned into a piñata for liberals. Franks and other Republicans not only need to learn how to discuss social issues without sounding cavalier about rape. They need to remember that if they don’t stick to their moral talking points Democrats looking for another Akin will sucker them into rape comments.

Some would argue the GOP is better off forgetting about social issues altogether but so long as the national discussion is focused on conservative principles, such as the value of life or religious liberty, the Republicans have the high ground. But the moment they start using the words rape and pregnancy in the same sentence they are doomed. The outcome of future elections may well hinge on whether Republicans can remember this very simple rule.

Read Less

Focus on Ideas, Not Just the Candidates

Some on the right are unhappy about the news that a group of major Republican donors led by former Bush strategist Karl Rove is organizing an effort called the Conservative Victory Project to fund mainstream candidates running against extremists in GOP primaries. According to Politico, leaders of the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund weren’t impressed by the prospect of party heavy-hitters parachuting into local races and preventing right-wing outliers from losing winnable elections against vulnerable Democrats:

Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller essentially responded by pointing to the scoreboard in recent primaries in which conservative insurgents have prevailed and emerged as influential GOP leaders.

“They are welcome to support the likes of Arlen Specter, Charlie Crist and David Dewhurst,” Keller said of the new Crossroads group. “We will continue to proudly support the likes of Pat Toomey, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.”

Read More

Some on the right are unhappy about the news that a group of major Republican donors led by former Bush strategist Karl Rove is organizing an effort called the Conservative Victory Project to fund mainstream candidates running against extremists in GOP primaries. According to Politico, leaders of the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund weren’t impressed by the prospect of party heavy-hitters parachuting into local races and preventing right-wing outliers from losing winnable elections against vulnerable Democrats:

Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller essentially responded by pointing to the scoreboard in recent primaries in which conservative insurgents have prevailed and emerged as influential GOP leaders.

“They are welcome to support the likes of Arlen Specter, Charlie Crist and David Dewhurst,” Keller said of the new Crossroads group. “We will continue to proudly support the likes of Pat Toomey, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.”

He has a point. It’s easy to fault Tea Partiers for foisting on the GOP crackpot senatorial candidates like Todd Akin, Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle–whose victories over more moderate candidates in Republican primaries cost the party all-but-certain wins in the last two election cycles. More to the point, Akin’s astoundingly stupid remarks about rape and abortion not only led to his defeat but helped sink Richard Mourdock in Indiana and tarnished the brand of the party everywhere. But not every insurgent is a loser, and not every establishment type is likely to win. The party’s problem is not only that it is not always easy to predict who is the better candidate but also that these top-down efforts are band-aids on a broader dilemma that must be addressed. The question is not just who should be running but what does the Republican Party stand for. The Victory Project’s Steven Law defended the initiative as nothing more than an effort to do what William F. Buckley always advocated, to pick the most conservative candidate who can win to face off against Democrats.

If, the group can in some way help prevent people like Akin, O’Donnell or Angle from winning primaries they will be doing the Republicans a service. But there is also good reason to be skeptical about the process by which this determination will be made. If this amounts to an incumbency protection plan it will only infuriate grass roots activists who will rightly resent the effort. It’s also true that sometimes, as was the case with people like Toomey and Rubio, it is not just that the insurgents are more faithful proponents of conservative ideas than their moderate rivals, but that they are also better candidates. Moreover, the prospect of national groups being able to override local sentiment in the name of victory is doubtful, as is the assumption that throwing more money at a race can determine the outcome.

The test case appears to be the upcoming 2014 race to pick a successor to retiring Iowa Senator Tom Harkin. This ought to be a great chance for a Republican pick-up but if, as appears likely, Representative Steve King wins the GOP nomination, the party may be setting itself up for another Tea Party disaster that leads to victory for the Democrats. King has a long record of incendiary remarks that his conservative fans don’t care about but which could sink him in a statewide general election. But persuading Iowa Republicans to do as Rove tells them to do will require more than an investment in campaign funds in the primary. As the party discovered to its sorrow last November, GOP moderates are also capable of losing Senate elections that seemed like sure bets.

What Republicans need is not so much a new civil war in which moderates wage war on Tea Partiers but a focus on ideas that will help the party regain its footing and confidence. If the GOP allows itself to become a loose collection of opportunists who are only capable of offering the public a faint echo of Democratic promises minus 10 or 15 percent for the sake of fiscal sense, all they will have done is to recreate the old pre-Ronald Reagan and Republican Revolution GOP that was only fit to be a polite minority. But by the same token, it cannot allow itself to be painted as only being the party of austerity. In 2014, the GOP must offer a positive vision of economic growth and defense of freedom abroad along with a sensible advocacy of entitlement reform that will save the country from impending fiscal doom.

If it can do that, then the candidates will sort themselves out. Republican winners come in all shapes and sizes — moderates as well as Tea Partiers. So do losers. But without the ideas that can swing the nation back from President Obama’s push for a revival of big government liberalism, it won’t matter whom the big donors or the activists are trying to nominate. 

Read Less

Another GOP Politician Falls into Akin’s Trap

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: 

Read More

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: 

“And in Missouri, Todd Akin … was asked by a local news source about rape and he said, ‘Look, in a legitimate rape situation’ — and what he meant by legitimate rape was just look, someone can say I was raped: a scared-to-death 15-year-old that becomes impregnated by her boyfriend and then has to tell her parents, that’s pretty tough and might on some occasion say, ‘Hey, I was raped.’ That’s what he meant when he said legitimate rape versus non-legitimate rape. I don’t find anything so horrible about that. But then he went on and said that in a situation of rape, of a legitimate rape, a woman’s body has a way of shutting down so the pregnancy would not occur. He’s partly right on that.”

Gingrey pointed out that he had been an OB-GYN since 1975.

“And I’ve delivered lots of babies, and I know about these things. It is true. We tell infertile couples all the time that are having trouble conceiving because of the woman not ovulating, ‘Just relax. Drink a glass of wine. And don’t be so tense and uptight because all that adrenaline can cause you not to ovulate.’ So he was partially right wasn’t he? But the fact that a woman may have already ovulated 12 hours before she is raped, you’re not going to prevent a pregnancy there by a woman’s body shutting anything down because the horse has already left the barn, so to speak. And yet the media took that and tore it apart.”

In all three instances, Republican lawmakers were trying their best to justify their opposition to abortion in the cases of rape and incest. The media’s double standard here is clear. While Akin, Mourdock and Gingrey and other Republicans have been asked to defend their positions, Democrats with equally “extreme” positions on abortion never are. During the last election, Paul Ryan was repeatedly asked to explain his stance on abortion in the instances of rape and incest by a hostile media anxious to trap the vice presidential candidate in the same “gotcha” moment that ended Akin’s and Mourdock’s runs for the Senate. Fortunately for the national ticket, Ryan stuck to a very rehearsed and well-thought out script each and every time he was asked and started to sound like a broken record on the subject by the end of the campaign. His Democratic counterpart, Joe Biden, was given a pass on favorable comments made in China about their one-child policy (that is often enforced by forced abortions and infanticide). President Obama’s incredibly controversial votes on the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act were also ignored by a media set out to trap Republicans fumbling over the issue of rape and abortion.

While this media double standard is incredibly unfair to Republicans, the deck has been stacked in this manner (against Republican candidates and politicians) for some time. It’s time for Republicans to practice the restraint that Rep. Paul Ryan did during the most recent election and decide on a script and stick to it. Continuing to talk off the cuff about abortion and rape has already sunk the careers of two senatorial candidates. One would think other Republicans would have learned from their mistake. 

Read Less

Preventing Another Akin

With Democrats defending almost twice as many Senate seats as Republicans in 2014, the GOP has a chance to make up for this year’s dismal performance and retake the Senate. But that also means reforming the National Republican Senatorial Committee to prevent future Todd Akin-esque candidates. Politico reports:

Now, top Republicans are considering splitting the difference between the heavy hand they wielded in 2010 that prompted sharp blowback from the right and their mostly hands-off approach of 2012. Both strategies produced a handful of unelectable candidates, so senators are gravitating toward a middle ground: engage in primaries so long as they can get some cover on the local level.

“We ought to make certain that if we get engaged in primaries that we’re doing it based on the desires, the electability and the input of people back in the states that we’re talking about,” Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, the incoming National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman, told POLITICO. “And not from the perception of what political operatives from Washington, D.C., think about who ought to be the candidate in state X.” 

The first-term Moran, who was elected to the spot last week by his Senate colleagues, tapped incoming Texas freshman Sen. Ted Cruz as a vice chairman for grass roots and outreach. The plan, according to party leaders, is to employ Cruz’s tea party star power to help win over activist groups that may be wary of the NRSC and help unify the GOP behind a single candidate in crucial Senate races.

Read More

With Democrats defending almost twice as many Senate seats as Republicans in 2014, the GOP has a chance to make up for this year’s dismal performance and retake the Senate. But that also means reforming the National Republican Senatorial Committee to prevent future Todd Akin-esque candidates. Politico reports:

Now, top Republicans are considering splitting the difference between the heavy hand they wielded in 2010 that prompted sharp blowback from the right and their mostly hands-off approach of 2012. Both strategies produced a handful of unelectable candidates, so senators are gravitating toward a middle ground: engage in primaries so long as they can get some cover on the local level.

“We ought to make certain that if we get engaged in primaries that we’re doing it based on the desires, the electability and the input of people back in the states that we’re talking about,” Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, the incoming National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman, told POLITICO. “And not from the perception of what political operatives from Washington, D.C., think about who ought to be the candidate in state X.” 

The first-term Moran, who was elected to the spot last week by his Senate colleagues, tapped incoming Texas freshman Sen. Ted Cruz as a vice chairman for grass roots and outreach. The plan, according to party leaders, is to employ Cruz’s tea party star power to help win over activist groups that may be wary of the NRSC and help unify the GOP behind a single candidate in crucial Senate races.

Moran is an interesting choice to lead the middle-ground approach. He’s only been in the Senate for a year, and while he’s not exactly “establishment,” he also isn’t someone who thrills the grassroots. That could either help him work with both sides, or end up turning them both off. Deploying Cruz is also critical for the new NRSC strategy. Cruz replaces Orrin Hatch as vice chair, and could be instrumental in building relationships between the NRSC and local activists. He and Senator Rob Portman (who will serve as finance chair) will be important when it comes to fundraising, since Moran is expected to be weaker in that area.

Jim DeMint also tells Politico that political training — a more controversial proposal — will be necessary to prevent candidates from torpedoing their campaigns with a single stupid comment:

“We need to do a good job of recruiting; our candidates need more training, keep their foots out of their mouth,” DeMint told POLITICO. “There’s a reason why most politicians talk in sanitized sound bites: Once you get out of that, you’re opening yourself up to get attacked.”

In an interview, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the NRSC chairman in the past two cycles, said the party needs to ask itself whether the goal is to prop up the most conservative candidate or push through the most conservative candidate that can win a general election. He said the party is reevalating its approach.

It’s actually a good time for a compromise. Both sides of the establishment vs. grassroots divide seem tired of losing for the past two elections, and both share equal amounts of the blame for it. They may finally be ready for a middle-ground approach.

Read Less

The NRSC’s Big Problem

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:

Read More

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:

The combination of Senate losses with Romney’s loss is part of what makes this election so difficult for Republicans to explain. If it had just been Romney who went down in defeat, well, that could be a problem with one candidate and one campaign. Similarly, if just one or two Republican primaries had produced weak nominees, those could have been flukes.

But we’re looking tonight at a national election in which the GOP failed to take advantage of enormous political opportunities on multiple levels, following a 2010 cycle in which Senate Republicans underperformed. Cornyn doesn’t say what exactly the work is that Republicans have to do in the “weeks and months ahead,” but much as Democrats concluded after 2004, it’s clear that something has to be done.

Something is obviously very wrong when the GOP lost ground in a year when Democrats were defending 23 seats and Republicans just 10. Cornyn and the NRSC will get the brunt of the blame, and they deserve some of it. They lost races that were close: George Allen in Virginia, Rick Berg in North Dakota, and Scott Brown in Massachusetts.

But some of the big losses were out of their control. After the blowback the NRSC received during the Tea Party wave in 2010, the committee stopped endorsing and openly funding primary candidates in open seats. That made it easier for an unfit candidate like Todd Akin to win the Republican nomination. There also wasn’t much the NRSC could have done about Richard Mourdock. While his poorly-worded comments about rape and abortion weren’t as outrageous as they were characterized in the media, they drew outsized attention because of the Akin controversy. And as for Olympia Snowe, the NRSC had no control over her retirement.

Still, there clearly needs to be a change, and Mike Allen reports on what that might look like:

Richard “Mourdock [in Indiana] and [Todd] Akin [in Missouri] join [Christine] O’Donnell, [Sharron] Angle, and [Ken] Buck as candidates that are embarrassingly not ready for the scrutiny of a Senate election. High-level operatives have already begun studying after-action reports to make a change in the business model to address this problem for next cycle.”

Most likely solution: Enlist conservative outside groups to try to steer electable candidates toward nomination.

Sort of like a shadow Republican Senatorial Committee. It would make it more difficult for an unprepared or unelectable candidate to win the nomination, without ruffling the grassroots.

Read Less

Should Mourdock Get the Akin Treatment?

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. 

Read More

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. 

Many Republicans have already disavowed Mourdock’s comments, including Mitt Romney and Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts. There are some high-powered Republicans that have refused to do so this time around, Texas Senator John Cornyn of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) being one. Why have Republicans not given Richard Mourdock the Todd Akin treatment and thrown his candidacy under the bus? Why have some prominent Republicans even defended his remarks?

There is a clear difference between Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, as candidates and as pro-lifers. Akin was already a troubled candidate with a campaign that is run, to an inappropriate degree, by inexperienced members of his family. Akin’s comments showcased a shocking degree of ignorance on how the human body and female reproductive system operates. To refresh your memory, he told a St. Louis television station, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” While Akin, like Mourdock, is in favor of banning abortions except to save the life of the mother, Akin seemed to believe that the issue was moot–that a woman could not get pregnant after a rape because her body, somehow, had the ability to form a distinction between a consensual and a non-consensual sexual encounter. After the comments, Akin’s candidacy appeared to be in a free-fall, as it seemed that parts of his campaign were incommunicative with others. Media appearances, like one scheduled for Larry King, were canceled at the last minute, while other interviews, like one that took place on Sean Hannity’s radio show, were absolutely painful to listen to and should have never been scheduled by his campaign without more rehersal and preparation. 

Mourdock’s comments were, in contrast, consistent with the overall position of pro-life Christians that every life, regardless of how it is created, is sacred, loved by God, and deserves protection. During the debate last night Mourdock stated, “I just struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize: Life is that gift from God that I think even if life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” The outrage is, rightfully, centered on the second half of that comment where it seems to indicate that Mourdock believes that a rape is an event that is preordained by God. Before noon on the east coast, Mourdock held a press conference to discuss his comments and clarify his position on the theological underpinnings of his pro-life stance, stating that he believes that he in no way supports rape and that it is a violent and inexcusable act. The response from the Mourdock campaign, having the candidate immediately and publicly clarify his statements to the press, was nothing like the chaotic and unprofessional reaction of the Akin campaign. 

A candidate should never have to clarify their position on rape, nor should they have to hold a press conference to tell the world that they don’t believe that a rape is an act of God two weeks before election day. Especially after the furor that lasted for several weeks over Todd Akin’s statements, Richard Mourdock should have been expecting a “gotcha” question at some point in his candidacy, considering his position on rape and incest exemptions. While Mourdock’s comments aren’t in the same league as Akin’s, unfortunately for the GOP, that won’t stop the comparisons, however inaccurate. With two weeks to go before an election that was already a toss up, it might be too late for Mourdock or Republicans to correct the narrative in time to save the seat or their hopes of a GOP majority in the Senate.

Read Less

Akin’s A Gift That Keeps Giving

In recent weeks, some conservative Republicans have revolted against the party’s mainstream consensus that held that no effort should be made to help Rep. Todd Akin’s doomed Missouri Senate candidacy. Deceived by polls that showed him within range of unpopular incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill, they rallied to his side with fundraising and moral support. Their efforts were a misallocation of scarce Republican resources, but there were some who thought it possible that Akin could overcome the opprobrium that had rightly rained down on his head after his shockingly stupid and offensive comments about pregnancy and rape.

This past weekend, Akin dug himself a little deeper with comments that likened McCaskill to a dog. While not all that terrible in of themselves — most politicians have been called worse things than little dogs who play fetch — this latest gaffe ought to be a wake-up call for any conservative inclined to waste any more time on his behalf. Akin is the gift that keeps giving for Democrats, and Republicans would be well advised to follow the Romney campaign’s example and ignore the congressman’s forlorn campaign until it finally goes away of its own accord on Election Day.

Read More

In recent weeks, some conservative Republicans have revolted against the party’s mainstream consensus that held that no effort should be made to help Rep. Todd Akin’s doomed Missouri Senate candidacy. Deceived by polls that showed him within range of unpopular incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill, they rallied to his side with fundraising and moral support. Their efforts were a misallocation of scarce Republican resources, but there were some who thought it possible that Akin could overcome the opprobrium that had rightly rained down on his head after his shockingly stupid and offensive comments about pregnancy and rape.

This past weekend, Akin dug himself a little deeper with comments that likened McCaskill to a dog. While not all that terrible in of themselves — most politicians have been called worse things than little dogs who play fetch — this latest gaffe ought to be a wake-up call for any conservative inclined to waste any more time on his behalf. Akin is the gift that keeps giving for Democrats, and Republicans would be well advised to follow the Romney campaign’s example and ignore the congressman’s forlorn campaign until it finally goes away of its own accord on Election Day.

It is a tribute to McCaskill’s unpopularity that Akin remains not all that far behind in some polls. But for all of the attempts by some on the right to either rationalize what he said or to pretend that he has a chance, it’s obvious by now that the majority of Missouri voters have no intention of putting him in the Senate, even if means re-electing McCaskill.

McCaskill spent a lot of her own campaign funds on ads that helped Akin win the GOP primary over more electable opponents, and right now that investment seems like the best political money spent in any race in the country. Akin’s dog comment is also a reminder that the rape/pregnancy atrocity that he uttered was not an unusual event. He is an ongoing embarrassment who is not only responsible for single-handedly costing the Republicans a certain Senate pickup but has become the poster child for liberal efforts to brand the entire GOP as morons as part of their faux war on women theme. That even now he doesn’t understand that he needs to be on his guard against comments that denigrate women shows the depths of his cluelessness.

The sooner Akin goes away for good the better it will be for conservatism. That’s a message his bitter-end enablers should have learned by now. Just because a man is attacked by liberals doesn’t make him a victim or a hero. Sometimes a fool is just a fool, no matter what his political label might be.

Read Less

Presidential Race Will Determine Senate

Outlets like Politico continue to write about the race to control the Senate as one in which the Republicans have blown their chance to win an easy victory. It’s true that sure GOP wins have been lost. The Todd Akin fiasco will probably cost them a once-sure pickup of a seat in Missouri and Olympia Snowe’s decision to retire will likely mean a pickup for the Democrats. But a look at Real Clear Politics’ Senate map shows that there’s still plenty of doubt as to whether it will be Harry Reid or Mitch McConnell sitting in the majority leader’s chair next January. With 12 races rated as a tossups and with a Florida seat now called as a likely Democratic win, though still competitive, this is no time for either side to be making assumptions about the outcome on Election Day. Each race needs to be judged on its own merits and the particular circumstances in that state, but the impact of the presidential race will be crucial.

The odds are there will be no partisan sweep like the midterm victories of the Republicans in 1994 and 2010 or the Democrats in 2006. Nor does is seem likely that either presidential candidate will have the kind of coattails that will create a landslide that will radically affect the composition of Congress. But that doesn’t mean the fates of President Obama and Mitt Romney won’t materially impact the various Senate races. With so many Senate races too close to call, the ability of either candidate to create any kind of a groundswell down the ticket will probably be the difference. Though there are too many variables to be sure of anything this year, the party that wins the White House is likely to be the one that controls the Senate as well.

Read More

Outlets like Politico continue to write about the race to control the Senate as one in which the Republicans have blown their chance to win an easy victory. It’s true that sure GOP wins have been lost. The Todd Akin fiasco will probably cost them a once-sure pickup of a seat in Missouri and Olympia Snowe’s decision to retire will likely mean a pickup for the Democrats. But a look at Real Clear Politics’ Senate map shows that there’s still plenty of doubt as to whether it will be Harry Reid or Mitch McConnell sitting in the majority leader’s chair next January. With 12 races rated as a tossups and with a Florida seat now called as a likely Democratic win, though still competitive, this is no time for either side to be making assumptions about the outcome on Election Day. Each race needs to be judged on its own merits and the particular circumstances in that state, but the impact of the presidential race will be crucial.

The odds are there will be no partisan sweep like the midterm victories of the Republicans in 1994 and 2010 or the Democrats in 2006. Nor does is seem likely that either presidential candidate will have the kind of coattails that will create a landslide that will radically affect the composition of Congress. But that doesn’t mean the fates of President Obama and Mitt Romney won’t materially impact the various Senate races. With so many Senate races too close to call, the ability of either candidate to create any kind of a groundswell down the ticket will probably be the difference. Though there are too many variables to be sure of anything this year, the party that wins the White House is likely to be the one that controls the Senate as well.

The fact there are an almost unprecedented number of competitive Senate races this year is a function of the Democrats’ big win in 2006 when they seized control of the upper house for the first time since 1994. That set up 2012 as a year in which they would have to defend far more seats than the Republicans, including some in states like Virginia, Montana, and Missouri where they would be underdogs. Thanks to George Allen’s problems in recapturing his old mojo in Virginia and Todd Akin’s unfortunate discussion of pregnancy and rape, things aren’t lining up quite so easily for the Republicans.

However, this campaign may turn out to have as many pleasant surprises for the Republicans as it has disappointments.

Joe Lieberman’s old seat in Connecticut was thought to be a layup for the Democrats, but thanks to Linda McMahon’s unexpected strength and a weak Democrat like Chris Murphy, it may turn out to be a GOP pickup.

In Ohio, Democrat Sherrod Brown looked to be a shoe-in against young Josh Mandel, but the Republican’s staying power in the polls is scaring Democrats.

Even in blue Pennsylvania, the Democrats have their Senate worries. Bob Casey beat Rick Santorum by a whopping 18 percentage points in 2006, but now polls show him with a slim lead over largely unknown Tea Partier Tom Smith. The Republican may not be able to close that gap, but if Romney, who is also trailing by only a few points, gains more ground in the coming weeks, Smith may be dragged along with him.

All three of these states may wind up staying in the Democratic column, but a strong showing for Romney in all of these states is likely to give a boost to all those Republican candidates. Even though he won’t win Connecticut, if he makes it close, that could be enough to also make the difference for McMahon, who is running ahead of the top of the ticket right now. The same is true elsewhere. If Romney’s surge isn’t derailed by the last debate, it will be interesting to see whether he is able to create a tide that will lift all GOP boats. All 12 of those tossups and even the Florida seat that Bill Nelson looks to be holding onto right now are as much in play as the presidency itself. Which means there is a good chance that the next president, no matter whether his name is Obama or Romney, will be able to count on a slim majority in the Senate next year.

Read Less

Akin Fiasco is Newt’s Last Stand

Today is the last day that Republican Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin can get off the ballot in Missouri, but there is no indication that he will avail himself of the opportunity. Akin, who turned himself into a national laughing stock with his notorious comments about rape and pregnancy, appears poised to flush his party’s once bright hopes for picking up a Senate seat down the drain. But he isn’t alone. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who was otherwise coming to grips with the obscurity that comes from being a presidential primary also-ran, has become Akin’s loudest supporter these days.

Gingrich is urging the national Republican Party to back off from its vows to cut Akin off from funds and says the Missouri race is still a “winnable race.” The polls would indicate he’s wrong about that as Akin’s comments quickly transformed a big GOP lead into a Democratic advantage, and there’s no sign that’s about to change. Nor is it likely many Republicans will respond positively to Gingrich’s declaration that the party has a “moral obligation” to back Akin. But his crusade on behalf of what is looking like a forlorn hope for the GOP is accomplishing one thing: it’s got Newt’s name back into the news.

Read More

Today is the last day that Republican Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin can get off the ballot in Missouri, but there is no indication that he will avail himself of the opportunity. Akin, who turned himself into a national laughing stock with his notorious comments about rape and pregnancy, appears poised to flush his party’s once bright hopes for picking up a Senate seat down the drain. But he isn’t alone. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who was otherwise coming to grips with the obscurity that comes from being a presidential primary also-ran, has become Akin’s loudest supporter these days.

Gingrich is urging the national Republican Party to back off from its vows to cut Akin off from funds and says the Missouri race is still a “winnable race.” The polls would indicate he’s wrong about that as Akin’s comments quickly transformed a big GOP lead into a Democratic advantage, and there’s no sign that’s about to change. Nor is it likely many Republicans will respond positively to Gingrich’s declaration that the party has a “moral obligation” to back Akin. But his crusade on behalf of what is looking like a forlorn hope for the GOP is accomplishing one thing: it’s got Newt’s name back into the news.

If Akin’s determination to stay in the race is not as big a story as it was a month ago, that’s because in the intervening weeks, the Republicans have discovered they have bigger problems than Todd Akin. In August, the party’s biggest concern was whether one appalling comment would cost them a Senate seat that might be the difference between taking the Senate or of remaining in the minority. Though the GOP’s Senate hopes are not dead, they have been sidelined by fears that President Obama is assuming a lead in the presidential race that they may not be able to overcome.

But Akin’s forlorn hope is just the thing Gingrich needs to attract a little publicity. The former speaker has taken to referring to Akin’s critics the same way he bloviated about those who thought his presidential quest was hopeless. But just as those who invested heavily in Gingrich were wasting their money (yes, I’m talking about you Sheldon Adelson), the National Republican Senatorial Committee and super-PACs like Crossroads GPS would be crazy to divert any resources into the effort to defeat incumbent Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill. Though she remains deeply unpopular, Akin (whose narrow primary victory was materially aided by the senator in order to give her the weakest possible opponent) is a lost cause.

It may be too late to undo the damage Akin did to the entire Republican Party by feeding into the Democrats’ faux war on women theme. But it won’t help Romney or any other Republican who still does have a chance for the party to reverse its decision to treat Akin like a pariah.

But Gingrich is, as he always has been, in business for himself here. While he is the sort of personality who may never completely fade away, this is the last election cycle in which he can credibly masquerade as a serious player. Just as he kept his presidential quest going long after he was finished, he is milking the Akin shipwreck for an extra few days or weeks of publicity. Though Republicans have bigger problems these days than Akin or Gingrich, the former speaker’s last stand in Missouri may be an appropriately disastrous finish for the GOP’s political year: 2012 began with Gingrich seeking to discredit Romney by attacking his business career in a manner that Democrats soon copied. It could end with Akin sabotaging Romney and the GOP in a state they must win.

Read Less

Can Mandel be the GOP’s Majority Maker?

Pundits who are quick to write off the Republicans’ chances of gaining the four Senate seats they need to take back the upper chamber after the Todd Akin fiasco in Missouri need to remember that the GOP has more opportunities for gains than they thought earlier in the year. The assumption that Claire McCaskill’s Missouri seat will easily fall into the GOP’s hands was blown up last week by Akin’s idiocy about pregnancy and rape. But it turns out that the Ohio seat held by liberal stalwart Sherrod Brown, which many Republicans weren’t counting among their potential pickups, is now very much in play. Republican candidate Josh Mandel, whose youth and relative lack of experience has been widely mocked by the Democrats, could replace Akin as the GOP’s majority maker.

That’s the only reasonable interpretation of the Columbus Dispatch survey of the Buckeye state that shows the Brown-Mandel race as being as much of a dead heat there as the one between President Obama and Mitt Romney. The Senate race is a 44-44 tie, while the Ohio presidential matchup is deadlocked at 45-45. That’s significant because when the same numbers in the Senate contest were posted by Rasmussen earlier in August, they were dismissed as inaccurate or inconsistent with other results. But with the Dispatch poll and a University of Cincinnati poll released last week that showed Brown leading Mandel 48-47, it’s now clear a race that was long judged to be an easy hold for the Democrats is now a tossup. After a summer during which the Brown camp has pounded Mandel with negative ads, Democrats have to be scratching their heads about these numbers.

Read More

Pundits who are quick to write off the Republicans’ chances of gaining the four Senate seats they need to take back the upper chamber after the Todd Akin fiasco in Missouri need to remember that the GOP has more opportunities for gains than they thought earlier in the year. The assumption that Claire McCaskill’s Missouri seat will easily fall into the GOP’s hands was blown up last week by Akin’s idiocy about pregnancy and rape. But it turns out that the Ohio seat held by liberal stalwart Sherrod Brown, which many Republicans weren’t counting among their potential pickups, is now very much in play. Republican candidate Josh Mandel, whose youth and relative lack of experience has been widely mocked by the Democrats, could replace Akin as the GOP’s majority maker.

That’s the only reasonable interpretation of the Columbus Dispatch survey of the Buckeye state that shows the Brown-Mandel race as being as much of a dead heat there as the one between President Obama and Mitt Romney. The Senate race is a 44-44 tie, while the Ohio presidential matchup is deadlocked at 45-45. That’s significant because when the same numbers in the Senate contest were posted by Rasmussen earlier in August, they were dismissed as inaccurate or inconsistent with other results. But with the Dispatch poll and a University of Cincinnati poll released last week that showed Brown leading Mandel 48-47, it’s now clear a race that was long judged to be an easy hold for the Democrats is now a tossup. After a summer during which the Brown camp has pounded Mandel with negative ads, Democrats have to be scratching their heads about these numbers.

Mandel was thought by some political observers to be too green and untested to defeat an entrenched incumbent like Brown. His list of political accomplishments is thin. He has less than two years as Ohio’s treasurer and two terms in the Ohio House of Representatives. Despite Brown’s designation as the “most liberal member of Congress” by the National Journal, the incumbent, who has also has seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives under his belt, was assumed to have an easy opponent in Mandel. But despite that modest resume, it’s now apparent that voters seem to like the Republican. The 34-year-old may not look old enough to shave but there is something about the Marine veteran’s smart, youthful persona and upbeat style that attracts voters.

Back in June, Politico alleged that the only thing that was keeping Mandel’s hopes afloat was support from super PACs like American Crossroads. But in the intervening months, Mandel was carpet-bombed by labor PACS and other liberal big spenders who lambasted his candidacy and record. Rather than letting this Democrat counter-punch floor the GOP hopeful, Mandel has actually gained ground over the summer.

That has got to worry the Democrats, since it shows that the more the voters see of Mandel, the more they like him. And with Brown running slightly behind President Obama, he’s going to need a surge at the top of the ticket in order to be carried over the finish line. That means a Senate seat that Democrats believed they were likely to keep is very much up for grabs this fall. Akin’s collapse was a blow to the GOP’s plans to win the Senate. But since a Mandel win should no longer be considered a long shot, they can easily make up for a loss in Missouri with an unexpected triumph in Ohio.

Read Less

Is Social Issue Strategy Helping Dems?

The Washington Examiner reports that Democrats are going to try to keep the Todd Akin controversy alive through their convention. At Powerline, John Hinderaker argues that this is the worst possible move for the Obama campaign:

We can only pray that this report is true, and that the Democrats devote all three days in Charlotte to discussions of abortion rights, rape and contraception. If there is one thing we can say with certainty this year, it is that the overwhelming majority of voters don’t want to hear about the social issues. They want to know how we are going to climb out of the four-year economic funk that has been the Obama administration. If undecided viewers tune into the Democratic convention and hear all about abortion, and tune into the Republican convention and hear all about the economy, Romney will win in a landslide.

The thing is, if Democrats talk about the economy, they also lose. They’ve been running a very targeted campaign since the beginning, reaching out to key groups on issues that are unrelated to the economy. Their main targets are Hispanic voters, women and senior citizens — they’ve already locked up the first group, and apparently they think this will help them with the second.

Read More

The Washington Examiner reports that Democrats are going to try to keep the Todd Akin controversy alive through their convention. At Powerline, John Hinderaker argues that this is the worst possible move for the Obama campaign:

We can only pray that this report is true, and that the Democrats devote all three days in Charlotte to discussions of abortion rights, rape and contraception. If there is one thing we can say with certainty this year, it is that the overwhelming majority of voters don’t want to hear about the social issues. They want to know how we are going to climb out of the four-year economic funk that has been the Obama administration. If undecided viewers tune into the Democratic convention and hear all about abortion, and tune into the Republican convention and hear all about the economy, Romney will win in a landslide.

The thing is, if Democrats talk about the economy, they also lose. They’ve been running a very targeted campaign since the beginning, reaching out to key groups on issues that are unrelated to the economy. Their main targets are Hispanic voters, women and senior citizens — they’ve already locked up the first group, and apparently they think this will help them with the second.

One Republican strategist told the New York Times today that the latest social issues strategy will end up costing Democrats the opportunity to define Paul Ryan before the GOP convention. Maybe — but why does that matter? The Obama campaign had more than enough time to successfully define Sarah Palin post-convention in 2008. And if the last few months are any prediction, Obama’s Mediscare campaign against Ryan in the fall will probably make the Priorities USA steelworker ad look tame.

The point of the Democrats’ “war on women” clamor isn’t to make a case for reelection. It’s to knock Romney and Ryan off-message, and divert attention away from their economic prescriptions at the most critical moment for Republicans. The clock is ticking for Ryan to define himself before the end of the GOP convention, when the Medicare attacks will start up full-force.

Thanks to the Akin debacle, the press is on a hair-trigger right now over any stories that involve abortion or social issues. All it will take is one poorly-phrased remark from a random Republican delegate (or, in a pinch, one explosive comment from Joe Biden in Tampa), and the entire Republican convention will be knocked off-message. Democrats are trying to make sure the GOP convention is about anything other than the economy, and as long as the media remains as cooperative as it has been, there’s a chance it could actually work.

Read Less

Tapper: Why is WH Ignoring the Economy?

ABC’s Jake Tapper has been trying his best to get the White House to comment on the issues the public cares about — namely, the economy — but it’s been an uphill battle so far. At the WH press briefing today, Tapper pressed Jay Carney on why Obama hasn’t mentioned yesterday’s troubling CBO report:

ABC’s Jake Tapper: “The Congressional Budget Office report is a pretty dire warning about what this nation faces, yet I didn’t hear the president mention it yesterday, is there a reason why?”

White House Spokesman Jay Carney: “Well I think I put out a statement which is the White House’s view and the president’s view. The president talks every day that he’s out there, as he was yesterday, about what we need to do to help build our economy, help it to continue to grow, help it to continue to create jobs and yesterday, and the day before, he was focusing on the need to continue investments in education because he firmly believes that education is a matter of our economy, it’s an economic issue.”

Tapper: That’s not what the Congressional Budget Office was addressing, they were talking about … The president talked about education, he talked about Todd Akin, he talked about Michael Jordan, he talked about a lot of—

Carney dodged it, responding with a few boilerplate sentences on Obama’s “balanced approach” to the “fiscal challenges.” But it’s a question that should be put to the White House over and over again. Why won’t the Obama campaign talk about the economy? More importantly, why does the White House press corps — Tapper and some others excluded — allow Obama to get away with it?

Read More

ABC’s Jake Tapper has been trying his best to get the White House to comment on the issues the public cares about — namely, the economy — but it’s been an uphill battle so far. At the WH press briefing today, Tapper pressed Jay Carney on why Obama hasn’t mentioned yesterday’s troubling CBO report:

ABC’s Jake Tapper: “The Congressional Budget Office report is a pretty dire warning about what this nation faces, yet I didn’t hear the president mention it yesterday, is there a reason why?”

White House Spokesman Jay Carney: “Well I think I put out a statement which is the White House’s view and the president’s view. The president talks every day that he’s out there, as he was yesterday, about what we need to do to help build our economy, help it to continue to grow, help it to continue to create jobs and yesterday, and the day before, he was focusing on the need to continue investments in education because he firmly believes that education is a matter of our economy, it’s an economic issue.”

Tapper: That’s not what the Congressional Budget Office was addressing, they were talking about … The president talked about education, he talked about Todd Akin, he talked about Michael Jordan, he talked about a lot of—

Carney dodged it, responding with a few boilerplate sentences on Obama’s “balanced approach” to the “fiscal challenges.” But it’s a question that should be put to the White House over and over again. Why won’t the Obama campaign talk about the economy? More importantly, why does the White House press corps — Tapper and some others excluded — allow Obama to get away with it?

The advent of online media was supposed to increase competition and improve reporting. Instead, some reporters seem so hooked on getting their six or seven scoops a day from their campaign sources that they end up acting as stenographers for newsmakers instead of challenging them. Maybe it’s because journalists are time-crunched, or maybe it’s because they don’t want their access to dry up, or maybe it’s because economic stories don’t bring in the web hits. But the speed at which the media jumps from distraction to distraction is disappointing.

Read Less

Poll: McCaskill Leads Akin by 10 Points

Well, these numbers from Rasmussen pretty much kill any hope that Republicans will win a Senate majority. At least it’s not like they needed it for anything important, right? Here’s the pollster’s analysis:

What a difference one TV interview can make. Embattled Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill has now jumped to a 10-point lead over her Republican challenger, Congressman Todd Akin, in Missouri’s U.S. Senate race. Most Missouri Republicans want Akin to quit the race while most Missouri Democrats want him to stay.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the Show Me State finds McCaskill earning 48% support to Akin’s 38%. Nine percent (9%) like some other candidate in the race, and five percent (5%) are undecided.

Read More

Well, these numbers from Rasmussen pretty much kill any hope that Republicans will win a Senate majority. At least it’s not like they needed it for anything important, right? Here’s the pollster’s analysis:

What a difference one TV interview can make. Embattled Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill has now jumped to a 10-point lead over her Republican challenger, Congressman Todd Akin, in Missouri’s U.S. Senate race. Most Missouri Republicans want Akin to quit the race while most Missouri Democrats want him to stay.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the Show Me State finds McCaskill earning 48% support to Akin’s 38%. Nine percent (9%) like some other candidate in the race, and five percent (5%) are undecided.

A Survey USA poll in mid-August showed Akin with an 11-point lead on McCaskill. That’s a 21-point drop in a matter of days. What happens once Missouri Democrats start really slamming Akin with negative ads? This could be a landslide.

Ed Morrissey reports that Akin’s supporters seem to be primarily on the Democratic side at this point. Fifty-three percent of Republicans say Akin should withdraw, while 56 percent of Democrats want him to stick around (presumably to watch him get crushed by McCaskill):

However, let’s not be too rash.  A number of Missouri voters want Akin to stay in the race.  Hey, they’re mostly Democrats, but at this point, Akin can’t afford to be choosy:

Forty-one percent (41%) say Akin should withdraw from the campaign and have Republicans select another candidate to run against McCaskill. But just as many (42%) disagree and say Akin should not quit the race. The partisan divide reveals voter understanding of the underlying dynamics. Most Republicans (53%) think he should quit; most Democrats (56%) do not, and unaffiliated voters are evenly divided.

Will these numbers finally convince Akin to step aside? Or is he that determined to single-handedly destroy the GOP’s chances of repealing Obamacare, give the Democrats a distraction issue to talk about for the next two months, and humiliate himself in a landslide primary loss?

Read Less

Akin Open to Exiting? GOP Hopes So

Todd Akin missed his 5 p.m. dropout deadline yesterday, but technically he still has a few weeks to step aside and make room for a Republican replacement (as long as he gets court approval). ABC News reports that Akin isn’t ruling out an exit:

Here’s what Missouri Congressman Todd Akin said when I asked if he was in the race to stay – even if it looked like he would lose and possibly cost Republicans control of the Senate.

“Well George, I’m never going to say everything that could possibly happen. I don’t know the future, but I do know this. I knew that the party voters took a look at our hearts, understood who we were, had a chance to meet us in many, many different ways and made a decision,” Akin told me. “And it makes me uncomfortable to think that the party bosses are going to dictate who runs as opposed to the election process.”

Read More

Todd Akin missed his 5 p.m. dropout deadline yesterday, but technically he still has a few weeks to step aside and make room for a Republican replacement (as long as he gets court approval). ABC News reports that Akin isn’t ruling out an exit:

Here’s what Missouri Congressman Todd Akin said when I asked if he was in the race to stay – even if it looked like he would lose and possibly cost Republicans control of the Senate.

“Well George, I’m never going to say everything that could possibly happen. I don’t know the future, but I do know this. I knew that the party voters took a look at our hearts, understood who we were, had a chance to meet us in many, many different ways and made a decision,” Akin told me. “And it makes me uncomfortable to think that the party bosses are going to dictate who runs as opposed to the election process.”

Apparently Akin may not know how bad the damage actually is. According to Politico, he’s been holed up with his strategy advisor, who’s pushing him to stay in the race. But CBS reports that Akin’s decision isn’t final, and it depends on whether Republicans come around to support him:

But, says Andrews, “Two sources tell CBS News [Akin’s] real strategy here is to hang tough — for now — and see if that wins enough money and support to stay in the race. In others words — his final decision to stay in — may not be final.”

In a potential sign of his strategy, Akin appealed Tuesday to Christian evangelicals, anti-abortion activists and anti-establishment Republicans. He said he remains the best messenger to highlight respect for life and liberty that he contends are crumbling under the big-government policies of President Obama.

Akin seems to hope that he can blame his flub on the liberal media and convince conservative grassroots to rally around him. But when Sarah Palin, Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh have all turned against you, that’s not really a viable strategy.

For now, there’s not much conservatives can do other than wait it out. Bill Kristol writes that Republicans and conservatives have already made their points publicly, and now it’s time for friends and supporters of Akin make the case to him behind the scenes.

Read Less

Did the Tea Party Pave the Way for Akin?

The “legitimate rape” comment is hardly the first controversial thing rogue Senate candidate Todd Akin has said in his career. So why did national Republican leadership stand by silently as he shot to victory — with the help of $1.5 million in Democratic money — in such a critical Republican Senate primary? You would think the fact that Claire McCaskill was running pro-Akin ads should have been enough of a red flag.

One reason could be that the National Republican Senatorial Committee has declined to endorse and fund candidates in open seat primaries, after the blowback it received from the conservative grassroots in 2009 and 2010. Back then; NRSC came under massive fire from the Tea Party for backing “RINO” Republicans like Charlie Crist (over Rubio in Florida), Lisa Murkowski (over Joe Miller in Alaska) and Arlen Specter (over Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania). Conservatives inundated the phone lines of the NRSC and its chair Sen. John Cornyn’s office, demanding support for Tea Party-approved candidates.

Read More

The “legitimate rape” comment is hardly the first controversial thing rogue Senate candidate Todd Akin has said in his career. So why did national Republican leadership stand by silently as he shot to victory — with the help of $1.5 million in Democratic money — in such a critical Republican Senate primary? You would think the fact that Claire McCaskill was running pro-Akin ads should have been enough of a red flag.

One reason could be that the National Republican Senatorial Committee has declined to endorse and fund candidates in open seat primaries, after the blowback it received from the conservative grassroots in 2009 and 2010. Back then; NRSC came under massive fire from the Tea Party for backing “RINO” Republicans like Charlie Crist (over Rubio in Florida), Lisa Murkowski (over Joe Miller in Alaska) and Arlen Specter (over Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania). Conservatives inundated the phone lines of the NRSC and its chair Sen. John Cornyn’s office, demanding support for Tea Party-approved candidates.

In many cases, the Tea Party was right. Rubio and Toomey were far superior to Crist and Specter, and they were competitive candidates to boot. But the Tea Party also got some bets really, really wrong — like when Christine O’Donnell cost Republicans a Senate seat.

Faced with boycott calls and angry tirades from talk radio hosts and bloggers, the NRSC apparently decided it was best to just stay out of the open races rather than face the wrath of the grassroots. It’s not a bad policy, but it also makes it more difficult for them to protect critical seats from self-immolating candidates.

Read Less

Platforms Are Meaningless Echo of the Past

One of the unfortunate consequences of the Todd Akin fiasco for Republicans has been the way the jaw-dropping stupidity of his comment about rape and pregnancy has been used to shine a spotlight on the party platform that will be adopted next week at their national convention in Tampa. Not surprisingly, the document contains a plank opposing abortion and does so in absolute terms without discussing any possible exceptions including for the life of the mother or rape. That is a position that many social conservatives hold but is probably not shared by most Republicans, even those who consider themselves pro-life. This plank will help liberals who will use it to bolster their fallacious claim that the GOP is fighting a “war on women” so as to distract voters from the failed record of President Obama. But the real misnomer here is not so much the disingenuous talking points of the Democrats as the assumption that a party platform has any real meaning in this day and age.

Like the national conventions themselves, platforms are a vestige of a bygone era when the candidates were actually chosen at these gatherings. In the past, platforms were a big deal with the committees tasked with writing the document holding public hearings and the debate and votes on the various planks were big news stories. They aren’t anymore–for a good reason. Though some people take a lot of trouble writing them, they are utterly meaningless. They are a convenient way to mollify party activists by giving them something to do that will be ignored even if their side wins in November. If the platform actually meant anything there might have been a fight about its language. The only people who pay attention to the platforms are researchers looking for ammunition to use against their opponents.

Read More

One of the unfortunate consequences of the Todd Akin fiasco for Republicans has been the way the jaw-dropping stupidity of his comment about rape and pregnancy has been used to shine a spotlight on the party platform that will be adopted next week at their national convention in Tampa. Not surprisingly, the document contains a plank opposing abortion and does so in absolute terms without discussing any possible exceptions including for the life of the mother or rape. That is a position that many social conservatives hold but is probably not shared by most Republicans, even those who consider themselves pro-life. This plank will help liberals who will use it to bolster their fallacious claim that the GOP is fighting a “war on women” so as to distract voters from the failed record of President Obama. But the real misnomer here is not so much the disingenuous talking points of the Democrats as the assumption that a party platform has any real meaning in this day and age.

Like the national conventions themselves, platforms are a vestige of a bygone era when the candidates were actually chosen at these gatherings. In the past, platforms were a big deal with the committees tasked with writing the document holding public hearings and the debate and votes on the various planks were big news stories. They aren’t anymore–for a good reason. Though some people take a lot of trouble writing them, they are utterly meaningless. They are a convenient way to mollify party activists by giving them something to do that will be ignored even if their side wins in November. If the platform actually meant anything there might have been a fight about its language. The only people who pay attention to the platforms are researchers looking for ammunition to use against their opponents.

Liberals, like those who write the New York Times editorial page, who want to skewer the Republicans on abortion can harp about the language in the GOP platform because it has some symbolic importance. The Republican platform is very conservative just as the Democratic one is extremely liberal. But the idea that a party is somehow obligated or even likely to put the ideas in the document into practice is a fantasy. Presidents and congressional majorities have been ignoring party platforms for over a century. If they hadn’t, the U.S. Embassy in Israel would have been moved to Jerusalem decades ago. The 2012 Republican platform and its Democratic counterpart will be filed and forgotten as soon as the election is over, as has every one that went before it.

There have been memorable platform fights in the past. The 1968 Democratic Convention practically came to blows over the Vietnam War. But such disputes have always been a function of the bigger argument between rival presidential candidates whose backers would squabble over credentials and platform planks before getting down to deciding on a nominee. Since it has been 36 years since the last time when the identity of the nominee was still in doubt when a convention began (1976, when Gerald Ford edged out Ronald Reagan for the GOP nod), it has been almost as long since anybody bothered arguing much about a platform.

Today the conventions are merely scripted television shows rather than actual deliberative assemblies, a remnant of a once vibrant political tradition that is kept in place to provide a setting for a lengthy partisan infomercial. The platforms are denied even that dignity. While they may provide a talking point or two for partisans, anyone who spends much time arguing about them is wasting their time.

Read Less

Jonah Goldberg and Rob Long and I…

….talk for a long time on this Ricochet podcast about Tina Brown and Niall Ferguson and Todd Akin and focus groups and the professional composition of Congress, not to mention Game of Thrones, demographics, and all manner of other nonsense. Plus a preview of the next “Enter Laughing” in the September issue. Jonah and Rob are both COMMENTARY contributors whose work I have edited, but judging from how I go on here, I’m the one in need of editing—verbal editing. Even so, perhaps you will enjoy it. This is scheduled to be a monthly endeavor, and the podcast needs a name, so feel free to suggest one in the Comments. If you win, you will find yourself garlanded on the next podcast.

….talk for a long time on this Ricochet podcast about Tina Brown and Niall Ferguson and Todd Akin and focus groups and the professional composition of Congress, not to mention Game of Thrones, demographics, and all manner of other nonsense. Plus a preview of the next “Enter Laughing” in the September issue. Jonah and Rob are both COMMENTARY contributors whose work I have edited, but judging from how I go on here, I’m the one in need of editing—verbal editing. Even so, perhaps you will enjoy it. This is scheduled to be a monthly endeavor, and the podcast needs a name, so feel free to suggest one in the Comments. If you win, you will find yourself garlanded on the next podcast.

Read Less

Adding Fuel to the Akin Controversy

Republicans understandably want to move past the Todd Akin debacle as quickly as possible, but it’s not going to be easy. The Obama campaign is going to try to keep this issue alive as long as possible, if only to avoid a substantive debate on the economy and the deficit, and many in the media seem happy to help.

That means that any comment from social conservatives that relates to abortion is going to be scrutinized under a magnifying glass. Mike Huckabee, Tony Perkins, Kirk Cameron and Rep. Steve King from Iowa have all unfortunately added fuel to the controversy:

Rep. Steve King, one of the most staunchly conservative members of the House, was one of the few Republicans who did not strongly condemn Rep. Todd Akin Monday for his remarks regarding pregnancy and rape. King also signaled why — he might agree with parts of Akin’s assertion.

King told an Iowa reporter he’s never heard of a child getting pregnant from statutory rape or incest.

“Well I just haven’t heard of that being a circumstance that’s been brought to me in any personal way,” King told KMEG-TV Monday, “and I’d be open to discussion about that subject matter.”

Read More

Republicans understandably want to move past the Todd Akin debacle as quickly as possible, but it’s not going to be easy. The Obama campaign is going to try to keep this issue alive as long as possible, if only to avoid a substantive debate on the economy and the deficit, and many in the media seem happy to help.

That means that any comment from social conservatives that relates to abortion is going to be scrutinized under a magnifying glass. Mike Huckabee, Tony Perkins, Kirk Cameron and Rep. Steve King from Iowa have all unfortunately added fuel to the controversy:

Rep. Steve King, one of the most staunchly conservative members of the House, was one of the few Republicans who did not strongly condemn Rep. Todd Akin Monday for his remarks regarding pregnancy and rape. King also signaled why — he might agree with parts of Akin’s assertion.

King told an Iowa reporter he’s never heard of a child getting pregnant from statutory rape or incest.

“Well I just haven’t heard of that being a circumstance that’s been brought to me in any personal way,” King told KMEG-TV Monday, “and I’d be open to discussion about that subject matter.”

King’s comments probably wouldn’t have received much attention under normal circumstances, but we’re still in the midst of the Akin media circus. So unless Republicans want to spend weeks debating the intricacies of rape exceptions for abortion instead of talking about the economy, social conservative leaders might want to be more careful about how they phrase their arguments in the media.

Read Less

Why Akin Didn’t and Won’t Drop Out

Today on the Mike Huckabee show (and again immediately following on Dana Loesch’s program), Rep. Todd Akin told Americans that he has no intention of dropping out of his Senate race. Akin caused a firestorm earlier this week after remarks about “legitimate rape” and pregnancy. Despite calls from every corner of the GOP establishment and Tea Party for Akin to step aside before the 5 p.m. central time deadline, Akin has refused.

Judging from Akin’s interview with Huckabee today, it doesn’t appear he fully comprehends why the level of outrage is where it is, nor does he grasp just how much anger he has instigated from across the political spectrum. Akin told Huckabee: “It does seem to be a little bit of an overreaction.” He explained that he misspoke “one word in one sentence in one day.”

Read More

Today on the Mike Huckabee show (and again immediately following on Dana Loesch’s program), Rep. Todd Akin told Americans that he has no intention of dropping out of his Senate race. Akin caused a firestorm earlier this week after remarks about “legitimate rape” and pregnancy. Despite calls from every corner of the GOP establishment and Tea Party for Akin to step aside before the 5 p.m. central time deadline, Akin has refused.

Judging from Akin’s interview with Huckabee today, it doesn’t appear he fully comprehends why the level of outrage is where it is, nor does he grasp just how much anger he has instigated from across the political spectrum. Akin told Huckabee: “It does seem to be a little bit of an overreaction.” He explained that he misspoke “one word in one sentence in one day.”

How could Akin get the public sentiment so wrong with a bipartisan chorus as loud as the one is calling for him to step down? One likely explanation is who comprises his inner circle. In early January, Akin fired most of his senior staff (his campaign manager, finance director and a general consultant) and installed his son, Perry, as campaign manager. His wife also has “been a regular presence on the campaign trail since he was first elected to the Missouri State House in 1988″ (this quote unfortunately comes from a disgusting hit piece from the Daily Beast on Mrs. Akin). Those surrounding Akin on his campaign have a personal, vested interest in his remaining in the race, and are less able to see his remarks as objectively as a campaign strategist might if they were not directly related to the candidate.

While one withdrawal deadline is apparently 5 p.m. central today, Akin has as late as September 25 to remove himself from the ballot. Politico explains,

Republicans in Washington were watching nervously ahead of a 6 p.m. EDT deadline for Akin to leave the race so Missouri Republican leaders could easily pick a replacement. The process for dropping out after Tuesday evening becomes far more cumbersome: Akin would have to petition a court to get out of the race before Sept. 25.

It’s unlikely that Akin will suddenly come to his senses before that deadline either, perhaps barring a total financial collapse of his campaign, which is a distinct possibility. “About a dozen GOP senators were scheduled to co-host a fundraiser at the National Republican Senatorial Committee on Sept. 19, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, NRSC Chairman John Cornyn, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt and tea party favorite Mike Lee of Utah. All have since backed out of the event, a Republican source told POLITICO.”

It became apparent yesterday, however, just how much of an uphill financial battle Akin would face and when Huckabee asked about the financial difficulties his campaign would face, Akin seemed to hold out hope for a large contingent of dedicated small donors to carry his campaign through to November. It would take an ad-buy with a budget the size of most small countries to undo the damage that Akin has done, and without any major financial backing, that looks to be an almost impossible battle. With Akin’s decision today to remain in the race, it appears Republicans may have lost hope for a majority in the Senate, and as Jonathan pointed out, a chance at defeating ObamaCare.

Read Less

Romney Needs to Sister Souljah Akin

Despite pleas from leading Republicans, Rep. Todd Akin announced today that he would not step down as Republican Senate nominee in Missouri. The statement, which came on former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s radio show, is very bad news for the Republican Party. As I noted earlier today, Akin’s staying in the race not only turns a likely GOP Senate pickup into a likely Democratic hold, it also places in jeopardy any chance Republicans might have of repealing ObamaCare next January. It will provide ready ammunition to the Democrats’ disingenuous attempt to convince the country that the GOP is waging a war on women.

All of which makes it imperative that Mitt Romney speak out personally on the matter. If there was ever a time for a Romney Sister Souljah moment, this is it. The Romney campaign has issued a statement disagreeing with Akin and reportedly vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan who serves with the Missourian in the House called him yesterday urging him to quit. But that is no longer enough. Romney has to come out in front of the cameras and the press and declare in no uncertain terms that Akin should end his Senate run and that he and all Republicans repudiate his views. An he must do it immediately in order to lessen the impact of the deluge of negative ads stemming from this fiasco that the Obama campaign will soon be issuing.

Read More

Despite pleas from leading Republicans, Rep. Todd Akin announced today that he would not step down as Republican Senate nominee in Missouri. The statement, which came on former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s radio show, is very bad news for the Republican Party. As I noted earlier today, Akin’s staying in the race not only turns a likely GOP Senate pickup into a likely Democratic hold, it also places in jeopardy any chance Republicans might have of repealing ObamaCare next January. It will provide ready ammunition to the Democrats’ disingenuous attempt to convince the country that the GOP is waging a war on women.

All of which makes it imperative that Mitt Romney speak out personally on the matter. If there was ever a time for a Romney Sister Souljah moment, this is it. The Romney campaign has issued a statement disagreeing with Akin and reportedly vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan who serves with the Missourian in the House called him yesterday urging him to quit. But that is no longer enough. Romney has to come out in front of the cameras and the press and declare in no uncertain terms that Akin should end his Senate run and that he and all Republicans repudiate his views. An he must do it immediately in order to lessen the impact of the deluge of negative ads stemming from this fiasco that the Obama campaign will soon be issuing.

Romney doesn’t have the power to make Akin end his now quixotic quest for a Senate seat that seems destined to ensure that a faltering Claire McCaskill will be re-elected even though most of her state wants her out. But Romney does have the standing to put the congressman in rhetorical Coventry by declaring that he personally as well as the rest of the party believe Akin has forfeited his place in national politics.

It is true that the Democrats were going to keep playing the war on women card even if Akin had never said rape victims could not get pregnant. But by saying it, Akin not only fulfilled McCaskill’s hopes that he would self-destruct. He also became the living embodiment of the cartoon version of the GOP that the Obama campaign is selling the public. Nothing short of an outright condemnation and demand that Akin step down from Romney can ameliorate the damage that is about to be done to the GOP.

Republicans are worried that a hurricane might disrupt their Tampa convention next week. But though the weather there next week is worrisome, it’s a minor consideration when compared to the disaster that is unfolding in Missouri.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.