In August, Democrats received an unexpected boon in the Missouri Senate race between Republican Rep. Todd Akin and Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill. During an interview on the St. Louis-based Fox affiliate KBVI, Akin made the infamous comments involving rape and abortion:
Akin rightly experienced an immediate backlash from across the political spectrum. Several prominent conservatives, including Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Preibus, and National Review contributor Reihan Salam, urged Akin to suspend his senatorial bid. Even Mitt Romney, the GOP standard bearer and presidential candidate, requested Akin exit the race. Many conervatives implored a radical rethinking of GOP policy, including writers here on PolicyMic.
Yet as November 6 approaches, Akin has limped along, remaining competitive in Missouri. Although crushed in third quarter fundraising, with a $1.6 million haul compared to McCaskill's $5.8 million, polls suggest an Akin victory is still feasible. A recent RealClearPolitics report indicates McCaskill's average spread is just over 2 points. The report further suggests that an "Akin win seems unlikely, but isn't out of the question."
It is totally unacceptable that Akin still has even the remotest chance of winning, especially since the GOP nominally soured on him.
Except that it didn't.
Although party leaders tacitly condemned Akin when it was politically convenient, Akin has enjoyed a quiet uptick of support in recent weeks. As the election nears, party luminaries have abandoned earlier anti-Akin excorciations and embraced the controversial candidate. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and former 2012 presidential candidate Rick Santorum all have rallied behind Akin. That Akin plays right into national critiques of GOP social extremism is apparently immaterial.
The return of national Republicans to the Akin camp is indicative of a disturbing truth: Akin's views are not a localized aberration but a window into wider GOP thinking. For years Republicans have worked tirelessly to redefine rape and narrow abortion rights. Most recently, H.R. 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions Act, sponsored by Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ) and cosponsored by, among others, Todd Akin and Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), attempts to narrow the definition of "rape" in an abortion context to "forcible rape," which sounds very similar to Akin's "legitimate rape" nonsense. When is rape not forcible or legitimate?
If Republicans truly disagree with Akin the party would have exerted more pressure on him to suspend his campaign and would certainly not continue to support him. The Akin fiasco presented a unique opportunity for the GOP to refine its social positions and overthrow the extremists dicating party policy from the base up. Instead, once the furor had subsided the party surrendered to its most deplorable elements and decided to prop up a candidate it is now clear is not a radical outlier but a symbol of the GOP who made one little mistake: he vocalized what the party truly believes.