As the Republican Party’s chance for a majority in the U.S. Senate hangs in the balance, Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) appears determined to stay in his race despite Tuesday’s withdrawal deadline, releasing an ad begging for forgiveness and calling rape “an evil act,” even has his prior words and acts come back to haunt fellow Republicans.
“Rape is an evil act,” he said in Tuesday’s ad. “I used the wrong words in the wrong way, and for that I apologize. As the father of two daughters, I want tough justice for predators. I have a compassionate heart for the victims of sexual assault, and I pray for them.”
He adds: “The fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy… The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold. I ask for your forgiveness.”
Despite the national uproar over Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape” and his apparent misunderstanding of how female reproductive organs work, a Public Policy Polling survey found that Missouri voters are largely unswayed by the remarks, leaving Akin statistically tied with his opponent, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO).
Public Policy Polling found that Akin’s comments significantly impacted the public’s perceptions of him and drove down his favorability rating to just 24 percent. However, his comments did not prove to be a boon to McCaskill, who’s still technically trailing Akin 43 percent to 44 percent. And despite 75 percent of voters disapproving of Akin’s remarks, just 51 percent of Republicans said they strongly disagree, and 43 percent even said they still like him.
Those numbers seem to be in line with a SurveyUSA poll released late Monday, which found that 52 percent of Missouri Republicans think Akin should stay in the race. In combined totals representing both parties, 54 percent overall said he should drop out.
Should Akin choose to remain in the race beyond Tuesday, he’s not likely to enjoy the support of the Republican Party establishment. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and former Bush political strategist Karl Rove, who runs the biggest Republican super PACs, have issued statements indicating some antipathy toward Akin, whose defeat could mean the party losing a chance to control the U.S. Senate. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has also tried to distance himself from Akin, saying his administration would not oppose abortion in instances of pregnancy by rape.
But even facing that kind of pressure, Akin still enjoys some support from the religious wing of the Republican Party, with groups like the Family Research Council and the American Family Association coming to his defense. Both organizations are key sponsors of the Values Voters Summit, planned for September in Washington, D.C., with featured speaker Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Romney’s running mate. Akin’s website brags that the Family Research Council gave him a “100 percent lifetime rating.”
They support him largely because of the congressman’s longstanding commitment to Republican anti-abortion causes, illustrated by a 2008 speech he gave on the House floor that was being widely recirculated on the Internet by Tuesday morning. “We have one of the most polarizing issues that has confronted our nation since the days of slavery,” he said. “And yet, just as slavery is fundamentally un-American, so even moreso, anything that violates the most fundamental right, the right to life, is contrary to everything that Americans have stood for and fought for.” He added later in the speech: “We have terrorists in our own culture called ‘abortionists.'”
Even more troubling for Republicans: Akin was joined by Ryan in sponsoring two bills, the “Sanctity of Life Act” and the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” that would have banned all abortions and narrowed the definition of what “rape” is. The later passed the House by a vote of 251 to 175, but the Democratic-controlled Senate never took it up.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, President Barack Obama said Akin’s comments are an example of “why we shouldn’t have a bunch of politicians, a majority of whom are men, making health care decisions on behalf of women.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) chimed in as well, insisting that “Akin’s offensive comments are simply one more part of the Republican attack on women’s health.” Rep. Jackie Speir (D-CA) told Raw Story that if Republicans were put in charge of the courts and the presidency, “a woman’s right to choose would be the very first proposal that would be put before the Congress to overturn.”
This video was published to YouTube by Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) on Tuesday, August 21, 2012.
This video was broadcast by C-SPAN on January 28, 2008, republished to YouTube on August 20, 2012.