Astonishing "Rape" Comment May Force GOP Senate Candidate from Race

Posted: Aug 20, 2012 3:30 PM

This story -- which I touched on briefly in the Obama presser post below -- has been moving at warp speed all day.  Let's get you caught up.  First, here's Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) making appalling and cringe-worthy remarks about "legitimate" rape on a St. Louis television program yesterday:

Not only is this indefensible and insulting, his grasp of basic human biology is demonstrably wrong.  It would be one thing if a random Congressman said something dumb.  It happens every day.  Here's the catch: Akin recently won the Missouri GOP Senate primary and is slated to challenge vulnerable Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill in November.  That arrangement now appears to be seriously in jeopardy.  The firestorm over Akin's comments has been blazing all day, with one major Republican after another strongly denouncing the comments.  In an attempt to stop the bleeding, Akin appeared on Mike Huckabee's radio program this afternoon to apologize for (and attempt to correct) what he said.  Despite his "I'm not a quitter" line in the interview, Akin sounded shaky and hedged on questions about whether he might withdraw from the race.  Then the floodgates opened.  The NRSC and Crossroads both announced they'd withdraw funds from his campaign if he stays in. Mitch McConnell and NRSC Chairman John Cornyn urged Akin to seriously consider his political future, and the Romney campaign followed suit.  Rumors are now swirling that Akin is preparing to drop out of the race tomorrow:

Missouri Republican Todd Akin has begun moving toward ending his candidacy after his remarks on rape and abortion provoked a firestorm. "Akin is taking concrete steps to withdraw by tomorrow at 5:00 p.m.," a senior Republican told BuzzFeed, adding that Akin could still change his mind. Tomorrow afternoon is an important deadline: If he files papers to end his candidacy in Jefferson City tomorrow he can end his candidacy unilaterally; after that, he would have to file an application in court.

Jennifer Rubin reports that Akin actually has plenty of time to quit in order for the Missouri Republican central committee to replace him on the ballot:

But tomorrow is not the end-all and be-all. Missouri election law gurus tell me there are actually two time lines. Tomorrow at 5 p.m. is the deadline for the no fuss-no-muss withdrawal. But there is another opportunity as well. Sept. 25 is the deadline for withdrawal by court order. (That procedure includes the requirement that any costs for reprinting ballots be covered by the withdrawing candidate.) In either case, a replacement would be chosen by the state GOP central committee.

There may be wiggle room beyond tomorrow's deadline, but Republicans seem to want Akin gone as soon as possible, for obvious reasons.  All three main GOP candidates held substantial polling leads over McCaskill, who's in real trouble.  Akin's comment was greeted like manna from heaven by Democrats, who abruptly went from beating away at Akin to cutting him some slack in a transparent attempt to keep him in the race.  When the founder of Daily Kos is publicly recommending/pleading with Akin to hang tough, that says it all.  If Akin does down, who steps up?  As I mentioned above, the state's central party committee will make that call.  The first- and second-place finishers in the primary were businessman John Brunner and former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman; I'd imagine they'd be at the top of the list, though others (like respected former Sen. Jim Talent) may also be in the mix.  The GOP response to this mess was swift and decisive.  Two morals of this story: (1) Candidates for high office cannot "misspeak" so terribly about rape without massive blowback. (2) The battle for control of the Senate is razor-thin, and Republicans know they cannot throw away a ripe pick-up opportunity by standing behind a seriously gaffe-prone and perhaps fatally wounded nominee.  Stay tuned...

UPDATE - Akin tweets out a fundraising appeal, suggesting that he's at least posturing to stay in the race.  Is this a trial balloon to see if he can galvanize enough monetary support to be able to afford to blow off the NRSC and other outside groups?

UPDATE II - Sean Hannity just grilled Akin on the radio, pretty much telling him to fall on his sword.  Akin sounded taken aback -- how insulated is this guy?  After saying that he won't drop out, Akin reacted to Hannity's arguments by commenting that he needs to look a hard look at the situation.  Incoherent.