Todd Akin's campaign hit hard by comments on "legitimate rape"

Aug 20, 2012

Republican Rep. Todd Akin’s comments on rape and abortion in a weekend interview have prompted a storm of reactions nationwide. 

Speaking during an interview on Fox2’s Jaco Report, Akin was asked if he would support abortion in cases when a woman was raped. Akin replied that pregnancies caused by rape are rare and that women have some kind of biological defense to prevent pregnancy:  “From what I understand from doctors," said Akin.  
That’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Dozens of Democrats have spoken out about the comments. His Democratic opponent in the November race for the US Senate, Sen. Claire McCaskill, called Akin’s comments “ignorant” and insensitive.  Even Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney has even issued a statement distancing himself from Akin’s comments. And the money is fleeing, too.  Politico reports that Crossroads GPS has canceled its ad buys its ads in Missouri.  The Super PAC, started by Karl Rove, would have supported Akin’s bid for the U.S. Senate.

As a US Representative, Todd Akin represented a district outside of St. Louis, giving him little exposure to the state as a whole.  "He was able to get through the primaries while his opponents generally trained the fire on each other rather than on him. So this is the first time he’s really been introduced to the state,” said University of Missouri political science professor Peverill Squire.

During the primaries, Sen. Claire McCaskill ran ads suggesting Akin is "too conservative" for Missouri.  "On a number of issues," said Squire, " including now his self-inflicted wound on rape...Akin simply is not in sync with Missouri.”

Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown was one of the first Republicans to call for Akin to step down from his nomination for the Missouri Senate race.  The L.A .Times reported this morning that the head of GOP strategy to take the senate has given Akin 24 hours to "consider what's best" for himself and the party.

“It’s unlikely that he’ll step down," Squire said. "He’s certainly put a lot of time and effort into getting the nomination and I’m sure he doesn’t want to give it up very easily."

Indeed, this afternoon Akin said in a tweet that he plans to stay in the race till the end.

Squire says Akins' comments will cause a ripple in races beyond Missouri.

“Republicans will be put in the position of having to defend comments they didn’t make and probably don’t believe. Otherwise they’re going to have to throw Akin under the bus,” Squire said.

But Squire also points out, there are still three months before election day.

“It’s always better to make your big mistakes early rather than close to election day,” Squire said.

Adam Allington’s reporting contributed to this story.