Whenever a politician makes a statement that runs afoul of social norms, someone - generally on the opposite side - will call for that politician to drop out of the race for the sake of decency. However, extremely rarely, a politician will make a gaffe that's bad enough to cause people in their own party to call for them to drop out.
Such is apparently the case with Rep. Todd Akin's comments yesterday suggesting that victims of "legitimate rape" rarely get pregnant - a statement whose clear falsehood has several conservative observers calling for Akin's head. Since the comments, Twitter has lit up with furious comments about Akin from the Right, and Redstate blogger neoavatara has penned a blistering attack on Akin calling for his immediate withdrawal:
There are very few things in life that I thought would make me call for the resignation of a politician. Clear corruption and dereliction of duty, surely. Treason, obviously. If they stated “Hail Hitler” on the floor of Congress.
Somehow Rep. Akin found a new one.[...]
Akin must go…now. I am willing to give leeway to candidates saying dumb things once in a while, things that are a slip of the tongue, or a simple misunderstanding. This is none of those. The video of this is worse than the quote. It shows a man that is clueless beyond all measure, and shouldn’t be voted in as a local dog catcher, let along as a U.S. Senator.
Harsh stuff. However, it's not universal. Conservative Dana Loesch has come out swinging, slamming the hypocrisy of Akin's critics, though still stressing that she isn't interested in defending Akin himself:
Critics of Akin's on the Right may respond that they want every instance of this kind of absurdity eradicated, Bloomberg and Harkin's remarks included. Loesch admits the remarks are ludicrous, but in a longer piece for Breitbart.com, she still defends Akin as better than sitting Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill:
Akin is a pro-life candidate thus leans towards life when discussion abortion. It's not shocking knowledge to Missourians who selected him as the GOP nominee for senate and lean towards him in the latest polling. Democrats want to make social issues the focus on the campaign as opposed to the economy, where they're losing, and Akin's interview gave them them the momentary opportunity they needed to shift attention away from the lagging economy.
Was Akin's "misspeech" ridiculous? Of course. Is it worse than the misdeeds of his opponent, Claire McCaskill, who rubber-stamps Obama's war on Missouri coal jobs and tripled our deficit? Not by conservative standards, or any real standard of measurement.
Whatever Akin's comparative merits, however, most of the conservative political class is still buzzing with calls for him to cede the mantle to someone else. Twitchy reports, in a story headlined "Todd Akin has until August 21 to drop out":
One of those calling on Akin to step down is Patrick Ruffini, a GOP strategist.
Ruffini says that Akin can withdraw from the race prior to Tuesday August 21st at 5:00 p.m.115.359. 1. Any person who has filed a declaration of candidacy for nomination and who wishes to withdraw as a candidate shall, not later than the eleventh Tuesday prior to the primary election, file a written, sworn statement of withdrawal in the office of the official who accepted such candidate’s declaration of candidacy. Any person nominated for an office who wishes to withdraw as a candidate shall, not later than the eleventh Tuesday prior to the general election, file a written, sworn statement of withdrawal in the office of the official who accepted such candidate’s declaration of candidacy. In addition, any person who has filed a declaration of candidacy for nomination or who is nominated for an office who wishes to withdraw as a candidate due to being named as the party candidate for a different office by a party nominating committee pursuant to sections 115.363 to 115.377 may withdraw as a candidate no later than 5:00 p.m. on the fifth day after being named as the party candidate for a different office by the party nominating committee.
In other words, if Akin's going to sink for this, he's going to have to sink quickly, or the chances of the GOP to take McCaskill's seat will have to float or sink with him.
He certainly can't count on support from the GOP's presumptive nominee. Romney slammed Akin in statements to National Review today:
“Congressman’s Akin comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong,” Romney said. “Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive.”[...]
“I have an entirely different view,” Romney said. “What he said is entirely without merit and he should correct it.”
Akin does, however, have one strong defender, though probably not the one he wants - namely, his prospective opponent, Claire McCaskill:
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) warned top Republican officials on Monday that any efforts to push Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) out of the Senate race against her, following his galling remarks about "legitimate" rape victims not getting pregnant, would backfire.
"I think for Washington party insiders to come in and try to invalidate the votes of Missourians would be radical," McCaskill said in a phone interview with The Huffington Post. "I think that would be a very radical thing to have happen, and I can't imagine how the Republican primary voters would think about that in Missouri."
"I think there would be a significant backlash," she added. "I'm not sure that would have a good ending for the Republican Party."
What do you think? Should Akin stand aside and let someone else face McCaskill? Take our poll below: