The Republican Party was subject to several painful losses on Tuesday, as it failed to capture the White House as well as take the majority in the Senate. Earlier in the year, it looked like the GOP had the chance of retaking control of the Senate, but missteps by candidates in key races saw them fall short.
Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri failed to defeat Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill after his remarks about rape gained him national notoriety. Akin said in a television interview that he believed that in cases of "legitimate rape" women didn't get pregnant because their bodies had the capability to "shut that whole thing down." Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, quickly distanced the party from Akin, asking him to "consider what is best for him, his family, the Republican Party" and resign from the senatorial race, which he vehemently refused to do.
Democrats quickly jumped on Akin as well, using his comments to argue that the Republican Party was in fact out of touch with women, and their opposition to abortion and birth control are not mainstream views. They said the GOP was composed of white men seeking to make decisions about women and their bodies. Democrats called it the GOP's "war on women."
They also pointed to a subsequent remark from another Republican senatorial candidate, Richard Mourdock of Indiana, who said during a debate that pregnancies from rape were "God's will." Mourdock too was thrust into the national limelight to defend his comments, but was ultimately unable to convince voters his words were taken out of context and Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly won the Senate seat.
U.S. News's Susan Milligan says people simply won't cast their votes for someone they don't like—and comments such as these are making Republican candidates unappealing to women and the electorate as a whole. Personality was the reason Akin lost:
It wasn't because McCaskill had a more expensive media maven or that Akin lacked the database to identify potential voters … Whether it was the insensitivity to sexual assault victims or the troubling thought that someone who served on the House Science and Technology Committee doesn't understand basic reproductive biology doesn't matter. The point is, it was Akin himself who lost his own race.
But U.S. News's Mary Kate Cary says the conservative party does have candidates that appeal to women. It just has to showcase them, using women leadership in the GOP:
Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison told CNN that the GOP must stop treating women like "a throw-away," saying, "We've got to talk to women about the issues they care about." It doesn't sound like Senator Hutchison thinks that women are single-issue voters who care only about abortion and contraception, as the Democrats clearly believe. "On economics, and the job creation and the fiscal cliff, I think Republicans are ahead," she said. She added, "What we need to do is fashion a party around the economics and the long-term viability of the economy of our country. When people start trying to go to such personal issues and try to form a party around it, it's very difficult."
Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney was also criticized for campaign trail comments on women, like stressing his ability to understand the need of working women to be home at 5 p.m. to cook dinner for their families. During a presidential debate while trying to make an argument for his support of equal opportunity for women in the workforce, he referenced having "binders full of women" to chose from when selecting his cabinet when he was governor of Massachusetts. Many women perceived these comments not to be understanding, but instead condescending and demeaning.
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