Focus on Abortion Mobilizes Democratic Base
The longer Akin, GOP abortion views make headlines, the more young and female voters turn out for Democrats
August 24, 2012
Todd Akin's crude remarks about rape and the ban on all abortions proposed by the GOP convention platform are a threat to the success of the Romney campaign. There are few people who will actually vote against the Mitt Romney simply because of the battle over abortion. But the argument about the availability of abortion has become a battle over the pros and cons of rape. This is a battle that can only drive a stake in the heart of GOP efforts to erase the gender gap.
Every day that the economy is not the topic du jour is a bad day for Mitt Romney, and the focus of the news in the last few days has been abortion and rape. The GOP candidate has tried to keep his campaign's focus on President Obama's greatest obstacle to re-election, which is a soft economy. But the former Bay State governor has had trouble centering this year's debate on the economy. First Campaign Obama got Romney off his game by attacking Romney for his record outsourcing jobs at Bain Capital. Then Romney opened up a can of worms by not opening up his tax returns, which put his campaign on the defensive. Now, Todd Akin and the GOP platform committee have taken the economy off the radar screen and replaced it with an argument about rape. An argument that the GOP can't win.
The president must turn out socially liberal young voters to survive. Young voters turned out in big numbers in 2008, and Barack Obama owes his election to the millennials who supported him over John McCain by a 2 to 1 margin. Young Americans are not nearly as enthusiastic about Barack Obama as they were four years ago, and this could spell trouble for the president. But young voters are overwhelmingly pro-choice. So any time the GOP pushes anti-abortion positions, it is helping the president turn out his vote. The GOP is doing something for the president that he can't do himself.
The other problem that Representative Akin and the GOP platform committee have served up to the national ticket is that the argument over rape makes Paul Ryan look cruel and insensitive to the needs of women. Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential candidate, cosponsored a bill, HR 3, with Congressman Akin that would ban all abortions with the exception of pregnancies caused by "forcible rape." Mitt Romney picked Representative Ryan to be his running mate to make the presidential campaign a contest of big ideas. A debate over the meaning of rape is not what Governor Romney had in mind.
A battle over abortion is bad enough for the GOP. But this has become a battle about the pros and cons of rape. The GOP will drive the size of the gender gap through the roof by implying that some kinds of rape are not forcible or legitimate.