A gaffe has been defined as when a politician accidentally tells the truth. Not that the content of Rep. Todd Akin’s statement about rape is the truth, but that what he said is what he really thinks. It’s obvious. And he’s not about to get out of the all-important race against Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri just because he chose the wrong language.
The “wrong language” dismissed the likelihood of pregnancy resulting from rape because, he asserted, in “a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Just where did this member of the House Science Committee study biology? But that’s a different issue.
Akin wants to eliminate abortions and would whittle away at the right to choose by narrowing the availability of abortions after rape results in pregnancy to cases of “legitimate rape.” Okay, he says he didn’t mean “legitimate.” He meant to say “forcible.” Excuse me. Isn’t the idea of “forcible rape” also redundant? Rape is forcing someone else to have sex by violence or threat of violence. It can also be chemical violence, as in the date rape drug. It is about violence, about power.
Akin had been working with fellow Congressman Paul Ryan on a bill to ban funding for abortions after rape in cases of statutory rape, where an under-age person has “consensual sex” with another. This would weaken laws that assume that, in cases of statutory rape, the consensual act is rape because the victim is too young to make an informed decision.
Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Scott Brown and other leading Republicans have castigated Akin and expressed outrage at his comment. Many, in varying degrees, (including the Wall Street Journal, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter) have urged that Akin drop out of his race.
But is his comment such an outlier? The upcoming GOP platform is expected to include a plank that would deny abortions without any exceptions for rape or incest (Ryan’s original position). Romney’s position is to permit abortions in cases of rape. Let’s see how they do, pledging party unity in Tampa and running on that party platform!
Even before this, there was a clear gender gap nationally, with Republicans losing by at least ten points among women. A Pew poll quoted in The National Journal puts the gap at 19 points. The Republican National Committee and Carl Rove’s American Crossroads superpac now say they won’t contribute to his campaign or run ads on his behalf. But will this “principled” postion last?
Akin has decided not to make it easy for them. He broadcast an apology and insists he will stay in the race. If he stays, will those Republicans who called for him to exit, still endorse him over his Democratic opponent?
McCaskill is in the run of her life, largely for supporting Obamacare. Even after Akin’s blunder, she still trails him by one percent. The GOP strategy to wrest control of the Senate in this election also needs her to be defeated. The gaffe is a gift to her campaign and could have a spillover effect on other Senate races and the presidential campaign .
Reviving the abortion issue is a reminder of the brouhaha this spring over the House’s attempt to eliminate reproductive services from mandated health insurance coverage. All of this undermines the GOP’s intention to focus on jobs and the economy, arguably President Obama’s weakest link.