While Republicans across the board were ready to give up on Todd Akin after he made bizarre claims about rape and pregnancy, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate is not going anywhere. Polls show that the race has been tighter than anticipated, given the hugely negative response after Akin’s comments on “legitimate rape”—and Akin can no longer back out. But can he win based on his opposition to Obamacare and big government, after all that's happened?
In a press conference on Tuesday, Akin said, “I don’t believe that [dropping out] is really my decision. That decision was made by the voters of the state of Missouri. And I have one purpose going into November, and that’s replacing Claire McCaskill.”
Akin cited McCaskill’s support of Obamacare as the primary that Missourians should not re-elect the incumbent Democratic senator. Certainly health care is a pressing issue in the state. According to recent census data, 1 in 8 Missourians are uninsured. Moreover, the number of uninsured people in Missouri has been rising since 2009, possibly due to a large drop in employer-based health insurance plans in the state.
But the need for better health care does not lead to consensus about how such coverage should be obtained, either within the state or on a national level. Missouri itself is staunchly opposed to federal health care reform. In November, voters in Missouri will have the chance to vote on a proposition which seeks to prohibit Governor Jay Nixon’s administration from implementing a provision of the federal health care law which requires states to set up online health insurance programs by 2014. (Nixon has said that he will not require an exchange.)
In general, Missourians tend to distrust the health care law, and McCaskill’s support of Obamacare was seen to be a liability in her quest for reelection. Akin returned to health care arguments on Wednesday quipping that Missouri residents “didn’t want the efficiency of the federal government and the compassion of the IRS running their health care system.”
McCaskill, in turn, has criticized the Republican Party for spreading misinformation about the health care law. She has also commented that if Missourians “give it a chance, they might be surprised how much they like it.” Now that Akin has passed the point of no return in his campaign, McCaskill is launching a new ad criticizing the Republican for his “legitimate rape” remark, asking, “What will he say next?”
But Akin assured the crowd that despite the scandal over his comment, his campaigning efforts are going smoothly.
“The citizens I’ve talked to say ‘You are mainstream Missouri. We want you, Congressman Akin, as our senator, and particularly we want you now, because we know that people can’t buy you, and that you’re going to stand up for this state, and this country, and not be part of any special interest group.’”
On Wednesday, the Missouri Republican Party issued a statement supporting Akin’s candidacy for the U.S. Senate: “Claire McCaskill is far too liberal for Missouri — voting with Barack Obama 95% of the time since 2010 and supporting every major piece of his reckless agenda. We are confident that Todd will defeat McCaskill in November, and the Missouri Republican Party will do everything we can to assist in his efforts.”
And on Thursday, former presidential candidate Rick Santorum and Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina came out in support of Akin for very similar reasons. They wrote, “[McCaskill’s] support of President Obama's job-killing, big-spending policies are sending our country into an economic abyss. And her passionate support of ObamaCare is ensuring healthcare costs go up while quality of care goes down. Simply put, we cannot afford six more years of Senator McCaskill."
“A lot of people in politics specialize in asking this question: can we win?” concluded Akin. “But there’s another question that’s more fundamental: what’s the right thing to do? There’s an amazing correlation —when you do the right thing, you end up winning anyways.”
Whether or not Akin can win on his anti-Obamacare platform remains to be seen. Certainly health care is a divisive issue, but can Akin really count on differences in opinion over Obamacare to win him a Senate seat, especially as other equally divisive comments he’s made over the years are dragged into the spotlight?