Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) wanted to face Rep. Todd Akin in the general election, because she knew he was the type of right wing radical that stood a good chance of eventually getting himself in trouble once he got under the intense spotlight of a competitive senate race. It seems Akin has delivered beyond her wildest expectations. Not only has Akin’s statement about “legitimate rape” not leading to pregnancy put his own election in peril, but several Republicans appears to be scrambling to prevent the problem from metastasizing.
Already the Romney campaign has made multiple statements strongly distancing themselves from Akin. The statements are coming both from the campaign staff and directly from Romney in hasty interviews with the conservative National Review. There must be some worry that Akin’s rape/abortion comment could taint Romney’s running mate Rep. Paul Ryan. Ryan co-sponsored a bill with Akin that would have restricted tax payer funds to be used for abortions only if they resulted from “forcible rape.”
It appears serious worries about being hurt by Akin also extend beyond people who have a direct connection to him on this issue. Already Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) has called for Akin to withdraw based on his statement. It is a very unusual step for a member of the same party to make such a statement about a potential colleague, but Brown is in a very tough race in the blue state of Massachusetts. Brown can’t afford to be even indirectly associated with this kind of statement, and he must feel that Akin is already risking enough damage to his own run that he must distance himself in the strongest way possible. I imagine Brown isn’t the only Republican in a tough race who feels this way.
This is a very fortunate day for Democrats in general and McCaskill in particular. Last week she was trailing Akin by 11 points according to SurveyUSA, but don’t call this rapid reverse of fortune all luck. McCaskill knew Akin was a hardcore conservative who could easily get himself in trouble. That is why she ran multiple ads pointing out his deeply conservative stance on issues like abortion during the lead up to the Republican primary. It not only helped assure that the weakest possible Republican was nominated; it set her up perfectly for the “I told you so” moment like the one happening right now.