The campaign of embattled Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin has responded to the furor created by his idiotic comments about rape with an ad asking voters to forgive him. In it a penitent-looking and sounding Akin apologizes for saying that women cannot be made pregnant when raped. Though a day late, it’s full-blown apology in which he walks back his offensive statement and seeks a fresh start from voters. That’s appropriate but it also misses the point. If Akin is still expecting conservatives to rally around him and claim he is a victim of media bias and double standards that allow liberals a pass on gaffes while conservatives are crucified, he’s mistaken. The stakes involved in this election are simply too high to allow right-wingers the luxury of sticking with the Missouri congressman.
The ad seems to signal that Akin is determined to stay in the Missouri Senate race. If so, that will set off a day of furious activity intended to convince him that he must pull out before the 6 p.m. (EST) deadline today that would allow Akin to be replaced on the ballot. The consensus on the right that Akin must go is based not just on revulsion against his stupid and insensitive crack. Conservatives understand that his determination to stay could allow the Democrats to hold onto the Senate this fall. Lest anyone forget, a Republican majority in the Senate next January is necessary if there is to be any chance that ObamaCare can be repealed before it goes into effect. Even if Mitt Romney wins the presidency and the GOP holds onto the House of Representatives, if Harry Reid is the majority leader when Congress reconvenes in 2013, ObamaCare will survive.
The math is that simple. The current RealClearPolitics map for the Senate shows 47 likely Democrat seats heading into the election and 44 for the Republicans with nine seats up for grabs rated as tossups. While theoretically the GOP can win a majority without Missouri, that is one seat they were already counting on to offset possible losses elsewhere. If McCaskill is left to run against the candidate of her choice, the chances of a Republican majority next year are dramatically reduced.
Just as important is the fact that if Akin hangs on, he will give Democrats a poster child for their effort to portray their opponents as waging a faux “war on women.” While they will do so whether Akin stays in or not, his withdrawal would be a strong statement of Republican intent and reduce the effectiveness of the effort to depict all members of the GOP as hostile to women. At this point, Akin’s resignation will mean as much to Mitt Romney’s chances of being elected president, as it will to Mitch McConnell’s hope to replace Reid as Majority Leader.
Akin may reason that if he hangs on his party will have no choice but to backtrack on their vows to starve him of funds especially if the race in Missouri stays close. But that would be colossal mistake for the party. No matter what he says, Akin’s candidacy is a lost cause and if they fail to isolate him, the taint of his stupidity will attach itself to every Republican in the country, including Romney.
Anybody can make a mistake but Akin’s belief that if he is sincere in his apologies, Missourians will forgive him and get back to focusing on McCaskill’s faults is wrong. Whether he knows it or not, he’s already lost his chance to sit in the Senate. The only question now is whether he is man enough to realize this in time and give some other Republican a chance. Republicans have only a few hours to remind Akin that this election is about more than his political future. If they can’t bring him to his senses, it will be bad news for Mitt Romney and those who understand that only a Republican sweep of the White House and both Houses of Congress can stop ObamaCare from becoming a permanent feature of American society.