Debate Club

Akin's Missteps on Abortion Won't Help Democrats Outside Missouri


Rep. Todd Akin may--or may not--have put his political career in jeopardy with his comments last week on rape and women's purported ability to "shut that whole thing down" and avoid pregnancy when attacked. The Missouri Republican may--or may not--have cost Republicans a chance to take control of the Senate.

But if Democrats think his misstep will bring them any greater electoral glory, they probably should think again.

Akin is in trouble right now for sure. His narrow lead against incumbent Claire McCaskill, one of the Senate's most vulnerable Democrats, turned into a 10-point deficit in a matter of days. He lost the support of the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senate Committee, not to mention Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and the entirety of the Missouri Republican establishment. Unless pro-life PACs come to his rescue, he is pretty much on his own when it comes to fundraising.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 campaign.]

His loss would deal a severe--thought not necessarily fatal--blow to Republican chances of retaking the Senate. But it is unlikely to turn the tide against Republican candidates elsewhere, up or down the ballot.

Voters aren't buying Democrats' contention that Akin's comments are part of a Republican "war on women." In the past, Ryan, like Akin, has opposed abortion under all circumstances. But Romney opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother, and Ryan has pointed out it is Romney's name that appears at the top of the ticket.

Democrats characterize Ryan's position as extreme, but that position polled at 20 percent, and Democrats' official position--that abortion should be available in all circumstances, regardless of ability to pay--polled at only 25 percent. Romney's view, "pro-life with caveats," as FOX News's Chris Stirewalt says, polls at 52 percent.

Moreover, 50 percent of Americans say they are pro-life now, which is near an all-time high. Just 41 percent, near the historic low, claim to be pro-choice.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Catholic contraception controversy.]

When the high dudgeon over Akin's comments subsides (i.e., when some other event, perhaps the Republican convention, overtakes it on the news), we will see if he can recover. We will see if abortion has become a losing issue not for Republicans but for Democrats who, according to Stirewalt, could pay for their position in the Catholic battleground states of the Rust Belt.

And we will see if Akin's stumble can nudge the GOP into finding other paths to a Senate majority--ensuring Scott Brown wins in Massachusetts and Dean Heller in Nevada and perhaps shoring up Deb Fischer in Nebraska, Rick Berg in North Dakota, Denny Rehberg in Montana, Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin, Richard Mourdock in Indiana, and Jeff Flake in Arizona will be a top priority.

It won't be easy for Republicans to get all eight of those candidates across the finish line. But it will be easier than the Democrats' task of trying to tie Todd Akin to Mitt Romney or to turn their platform plank--abortion on demand, at taxpayers' expense if necessary--into an electoral winner.

Ford O'Connell

About Ford O'Connell Republican Strategist, Conservative Activist, and Political Analyst

2012 presidential election

Other Arguments

5 Pts
Abortion Stance Won't Solve Democrats' Biggest Problem Areas: Men and Independents

No – Abortion Stance Won't Solve Democrats' Biggest Problem Areas: Men and Independents

Lara Brown Author of 'Jockeying for the American Presidency: The Political Opportunism of Aspirants'

4 Pts
Focus on Abortion Mobilizes Democratic Base

Yes – Focus on Abortion Mobilizes Democratic Base

Brad Bannon President of Bannon Communications Research

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