Rep. Todd Akin, (R-Mo.), seen during a news conference earlier this month,… (Sid Hastings / AP File Photo )
TAMPA, Fla. – Republican leaders may want to turn the page on Rep. Todd Akin’s comments about women and rape, but Democrats won't let them.
Phone calls started Monday in 20 congressional districts held by the GOP, linking the incumbent lawmaker to the six-term Missourian’s suggestion that pregnancy “rarely” results from “legitimate rape.” Akin is running for Senate, in a close race against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.
“By now, I’m sure you’ve heard Congressman Todd Akin’s unbelievable comments about rape and his outrageous beliefs about women’s rights,” says the woman on the automated call. “You know what’s even more worrisome? He’s not alone.”
The difficulty Akin’s comments pose for his party is underscored by voting records. Many Republican lawmakers joined the congressman in supporting several bills — including one that sought to define rape as “forcible rape,” even though that language was eventually dropped. Sixteen Democrats also joined in that vote.
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The Democrats’ outlay on the robo-calls underscores the power of the issue the party hopes to keep at the forefront of the debate as both parties try to win women voters — particularly those undecided and independent voters who may align with the GOP on fiscal issues but are hesitant over its policies on social and women’s issues.
Many of the House Republicans being targeted are here in Tampa, at the Republican National Convention, where leaders are trying to boost their standing among women. A Women Up! pavilion, sponsored by a group run by former aides of Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), has a focus on women’s issues.
At the same time, the number of calls being made by Democrats may also offer insight into the race for the House: Phones are being dialed in 20 GOP districts, but the Democrats need to net 25 new seats to wrest control of the House.
Akin threw his campaign into turmoil when he said last week that women's bodies have a way of shutting down from the trauma of "legitimate rape" and rarely become pregnant.
The swift reaction splintered the GOP, as the conservative religious wing stood by Akin and fiscal hawks wanted him off the ticket.
Akin defied calls from the top tier of his party to step down from the Senate race, and has instead pressed forward with a campaign that touts his independence from his leaders and is winning backing from leaders on the religious right.
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