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Tea party rogue: Todd Akin defies GOP bosses by staying in race

August 20, 2012|By James Rainey
  • Todd Akin, Republican candidate for U.S. Senator from Missouri, speaks at the Missouri Farm Bureau candidate interview and endorsement meeting in Jefferson City, Mo.
Todd Akin, Republican candidate for U.S. Senator from Missouri, speaks… (Christian Gooden / St. Louis…)

The Republican Party has ridden ideological, anti-government fervor to a number of victories, particularly in the 2010 midterm election. But the political dangers created by the free-wheeling, anti-authoritarian movement have come into full view in the person of rogue U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin.

Most traditional GOP nominees who made a giant blunder — as Akin did Sunday with his foolish comments about how “legitimate rape” seldom makes women pregnant — would find it hard to resist the barrage of calls from Republican Party major-domos to give up their candidacies.

But as of Monday evening, Akin appeared determined to remain in the race against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). His intransigence came despite clear signals — from the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee, its Senate leader, its party chairman, one of its most powerful independent fundraising engines and even a leading tea party umbrella group — that he needed to get out as soon as possible.

PHOTOS: "Legitimate rape" and other disastrous quotes

“I am in this race to win,” Akin said via Twitter on Monday afternoon. “We need a conservative Senate. Help me defeat Claire by donating.” The micro-blog message included a link to an Akin fundraising site. Just before 8 p.m. Eastern time, Akin reiterated that stance in an email blast to the media.

“I have just begun to fight,” it read, “and I’m in this race to the end!”

By day’s end, the congressman had not just the Republican establishment, Democrats and women’s rights organizations after his hide. He’d also managed to tee up a moment of media agitprop for struggling CNN talk show host Piers Morgan. When Akin failed to show up for an interview he had purportedly agreed to, Morgan’s producers showed video of the congressman’s empty chair.

“Congressman, you have an open invitation to join me in that chair whenever you feel up to it,” Morgan jabbed, “because if you don’t keep your promise to be on the show, then you are what we would call in Britain a gutless little twerp.”

The six-term congressman has shown a willingness in the past not to be pushed by popular convention. He has talked frequently about the individual standing up against the establishment, including an intrusive federal government.

He rejected President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind legislation as too invasive for parents. With his wife, Lulli, Akin pulled his children out of school to have them taught at home. That made the Akins heroes to other home-schooling parents, many of them Christian evangelicals. Lulli Akin directed other parents at a home-school conference to "make sure that you tuck God's word deep into your heart and your children's hearts."

The congressman said recently that he thought both the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act should be reexamined to determine whether the foundational pieces of legislation were still worthwhile.

“America has got the equivalent of the stage III cancer of socialism,” Akin said, “because the federal government is tampering in all kinds of stuff it has no business tampering in.”

Feeling that mainstream Missourians wouldn’t accept the congressman’s more extreme views, Democrats spent more than $1.5 million to help him win a three-way Republican primary. Akin won. Now his rape and pregnancy comments — and a belief that women can somehow magically ward off pregnancy in such cases — are just the sort of payoff that McCaskill and the Democrats had hoped for.

Republicans have lined up fairly uniformly to try to get Akin out of the race, with their eye on a 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline. It would take a court order, after that time, to get the six-term congressman’s name off the Nov. 6 ballot.

The congressman created the mess in an interview Sunday with a St. Louis television station. He explained that pregnancies were “really rare” in rapes, citing unnamed doctors as the source of his information. "If it's a legitimate rape,” Akin said, “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Akin has since apologized and conceded his remarks were “wrong” and “ill-conceived.”

Republicans realize no apology can explain away how such backward ideas got in the congressman’s head in the first place. The only safe ground politically is to jump as far away from the dunderheaded Akin and his home-school physiology lesson as they can.

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