The Todd Akin of 2014 Is “¦ Todd Akin

No Republican has spouted offensive stuff nearly as well as the 2012 candidate, something Democrats can lament as they are denied a GOP bogeyman this year.

U.S. Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) and Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (not pictured) address the media on September 24, 2012 in Kirkwood, Missouri. Gingrich was in the St. Louis area to attend a fundraiser for Akin's U.S. Senate campaign against incumbent Claire McCaskill.
National Journal
Emily Schultheis
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Emily Schultheis
July 11, 2014, 8:37 a.m.

Na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­ans wor­ried anxiously this year that a hand­ful of fringe can­did­ates could re­peat the dread­ful mis­takes of Todd Akin, whose “le­git­im­ate rape” com­ments helped tank the GOP’s Sen­ate chances in 2012.

But it turns out that the Todd Akin of 2014 is Todd Akin.

Akin’s ree­m­er­gence on the na­tion­al stage this week — to pro­mote his new book, Fir­ing Back — was an un­wel­come sur­prise for na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­ans, who still cred­it the former Mis­souri can­did­ate’s com­ments with los­ing not just his race against Demo­crat­ic Sen. Claire Mc­Caskill but tight Sen­ate con­tests across the 2012 map.

So far, though, his 2014 dop­pel­gang­er hasn’t ma­ter­i­al­ized — and al­most all the Re­pub­lic­ans whom party lead­ers saw as prob­lem­at­ic are out of the pic­ture now.

Paul Broun, for ex­ample, the firebrand con­ser­vat­ive con­gress­man who ran for the Sen­ate in Geor­gia and once called the big-bang the­ory and evol­u­tion “lies from the pit of hell,” came in fifth in the state’s May 20 primary. Busi­ness­man Dav­id Per­due and Rep. Jack King­ston, who made it to the Ju­ly 22 run­off, were the two can­did­ates in that race seen as least likely to de­liv­er a sim­il­ar gaffe.

The same was true in Sen­ate races in North Car­o­lina and Mis­sis­sippi: Phys­i­cian Greg Bran­non and pas­tor Mark Har­ris both lost the North Car­o­lina GOP primary to state House Speak­er Thom Tillis, de­liv­er­ing the nom­in­a­tion to the can­did­ate na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­ans pre­ferred. McDaniel, whose ra­dio-host past un­earthed some of­fens­ive com­ments about wo­men and minor­it­ies, is — pending his leg­al chal­lenge — out of the run­ning in Mis­sis­sippi.

And in Alaska, 2010 Sen­ate can­did­ate Joe Miller is back for a second try in the Aug. 19 primary, but so far he has got­ten little trac­tion against former state De­part­ment of Nat­ur­al Re­sources Com­mis­sion­er Dan Sul­li­van, Lt. Gov. Mead Tread­well, and oth­er can­did­ates.

Akin, in his new book, says his only re­gret of the 2012 cam­paign was apo­lo­giz­ing for the com­ments that so many found of­fens­ive.

“By ask­ing the pub­lic at large for for­give­ness, I was val­id­at­ing the will­ful mis­in­ter­pret­a­tion of what I had said,” he writes, ac­cord­ing to an early copy of the book ob­tained by Politico.

Some Demo­crats quickly jumped on the Akin news Thursday, ty­ing him to 2014 can­did­ates. While it shows that Demo­crats still feel Akin res­on­ates, it’s also a sign that no one has taken his place as the GOP bo­gey­man.

“Todd Akin Is Back “¦ But He Nev­er Really Left,” said the head­line on a press re­lease from Sen. Mark Ud­all’s cam­paign, which al­leged Thursday that the Col­oradan’s GOP chal­lenger, Cory Gard­ner, “car­ried on cru­sade” for Akin.

“Akin’s re­marks were widely con­demned by Re­pub­lic­ans try­ing to avoid bad PR, but rad­ic­als like Con­gress­man Cory Gard­ner still agree with Akin’s of­fens­ive and back­ward policy views,” the re­lease said.

Planned Par­ent­hood, too, put out a re­lease say­ing three can­did­ates — Gard­ner, North Car­o­lina’s Tillis, and Texas gubernat­ori­al can­did­ate Greg Ab­bott — “show sim­il­ar dis­reg­ard for sur­viv­ors of rape and in­cest.”

But these ref­er­ences to Akin un­der­score the fact that, thus far, there’s no ob­vi­ous 2014 scape­goat to fuel Demo­crats’ “GOP war on wo­men” nar­rat­ive, and no 2014 com­ment that has come even close to Akin’s “le­git­im­ate rape.” In a year where Demo­crats must de­fend so much ter­rit­ory on the Sen­ate map, that’s surely not what they wanted.

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