Politics
10:28 am
Thu November 15, 2012

What we learned about Mo. voters from the Akin/McCaskill race

Rep. Akin, left, lost a large chunk of votes to Sen. McCaskill in Missouri's U.S. Senate race thanks in large part to women and young people backing McCaskill.
Credit Kristofor Husted, Scott Pham / KBIA
Listen to audio story

With the election in the rearview mirror, the national parties have spent the last week poring through the results and voter demographic data. Turns out women, young people and Latino voters matter a lot in a presidential race.

Here in Missouri, the results for the U.S. Senate race displayed some similarities.

In August when Rep. Todd Akin said on TV that women’s bodies have ways of preventing pregnancy in cases of quote “legitimate rape,” he not only triggered a trap targeting conservatives who are against abortion in any circumstance, he opened a door to which voters make the difference in Missouri now.

Despite multiple apologies from Akin, Missouri voters could not move past that comment.  An Associated Press exit poll on Election Day showed that nearly two-thirds of Missouri voters said that they gave his comment consideration in the booth.  And those who did consider the comment, overwhelmingly voted for his opponent, incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill. She ended up winning with nearly 55 percent of the vote to his 39 percent.

Peverill Squire, a political science professor at MU, says this race was won in the middle with moderate voters.

“Missouri voters are willing to be conservative but not if you’re too far to the right," he tells KBIA. "I think on abortion, I think there are probably a lot of people who are not comfortable with completely banning abortion in all instances. Akin’s comments in that regard coupled with comments about social security and Medicare and some other programs made enough moderate voters uncomfortable that they were willing to vote for McCaskill.”

Indeed, McCaskill garnered nearly 6,000 more state votes in Missouri’s Senate race than Republican Gov. Mitt Romney did in the state’s vote for president, which he won handily. The AP’s exit polls suggest the senator owes much of her victory to women, since young and middle-age women turned out in droves to back her.  She also commanded the youth vote by earning a 20 percent swing in support since her 2006 race.

"I think it’s pretty clear that particularly women drifted towards McCaskill," Squire says," and if you look at a geographical pattern, Akin managed to lose outside St. Louis, where he would have been expected to win. So I think a lot of suburban voters abandoned the republicans in that race."

Still, just like the national Republican Party has been forced to do in the wake of the election, the state GOP may have to regroup and reevaluate its stance on issues the party is losing voters on, such as abortion and immigration. Squire says it won’t be an easy discussion for the state leaders to have, but it might be a mandatory one if the national leaders have anything to say about it.

“I think nationally there is going to be a lot of pressure to take those issues off the agenda to try to keep them from being used against republicans nationally in the next elections,” Squire says.

With men voters, the Akin/McCaskill race came out in a draw.