Cue Howard Dean.
Remember the “Dean Scream” after he finished a disappointing third in the 2004 Iowa caucuses?
That one momentary high-pitched scream crystallized Dean’s intangibles and framed him as wacky. That was it. Dean’s presidential campaign was toast.
Did Missouri GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin just deliver a Howard Dean-moment to the Romney/Ryan ticket?
When asked Sunday if he opposed abortion in cases of rape, Rep. Todd Akin said a woman’s body is able to prevent pregnancy in what he called a “legitimate rape.”
This gives rise to the idea that some women want to be sexually assaulted.
In addition to this being a blatantly ignorant sentiment and misogynist, it boggles the mind why Akin would make such a radical belief public.
Akin isn’t some fringe candidate. He is a sitting member of Congress and serves on the Science Committee in the House.
The entire Republican establishment, including Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove, Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney all have requested he step down.
Akin has refused thus far these requests and instead entrenched himself as an anti-establishment candidate. It will now take a court order to have him removed from the ballot.
This has quickly become a seismic earthquake for Republicans, because like the
“Dean Scream,” Akin’s abortion stance has crystallized the entire Republican ticket as being out-of-touch with mainstream America.
Here is how this spells trouble for the GOP in November.
First, this Akin controversy could not have come at a worse time. The Republican convention kicks off next week in Tampa where leaders hope to re-introduce Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
Instead of talking about its party’s candidates Republicans are stuck defending their stance on abortion. Akin’s comments serve to magnify the fact that the GOP’s official pro-life platform calls for a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion without specific exceptions for rape or incest.
This conservative view is out of line with the vast majority of Americans, including Mitt Romney.
Secondly, Republicans were counting on Akin beating incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill. They need Missouri or the math required to bump Harry Reid to minority leader gets theoretical.
But wait it gets worse.
The Republican leadership recognized they had a problem with Romney appearing too moderate, so they chose Paul Ryan to shore up the presidential nominee’s conservative credentials.
Ryan is mainly known as a conservative budget hawk. This speaks favorably to those in the party seeking smaller government, but his ideas for severely cutting Medicare and privatizing it with a voucher system are controversial. Funding for education and programs for the poor also would suffer deep cuts.
These stances Romney was prepared to absorb and defend. Then the Akin controversy erupted.
The Missouri congressman wants to make it sound like he misspoke, but the concept behind what Akin said is precisely what he believes. It also happens to be what Ryan believes.
Ryan co-sponsored H.R. 3 with Rep. Akin. This was the House Republican’s “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” which attempted to redefine rape.
Over 150 Republicans signed onto this national piece of legislation agreeing with its intent and passed it 251-175. Now it had no prayer in the Senate, but the fact they moved a piece of legislation like this forward makes it central to the Republican Party.
With Paul Ryan as its sponsor, these beliefs are now on the national ticket.
Romney may be at the top of the ballot, but the vice president is a heartbeat away. Voters will take into count Ryan’s beliefs – and they are extreme.
A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows adding Ryan to the ticket has basically been a wash. Obama leads Romney 48 percent to 44; and Ryan’s approval with registered voters is 33 percent favorable versus 32 percent unfavorable.
The problem for Romney is, since he refuses to provide any specific details on anything, people are taking Ryan’s beliefs and making them Romney’s.
As an added bonus to this disaster, Akin received his distorted view on how women could magically avoid becoming pregnant during rapes from Dr. John Willke, who is hailed as the father of the pro-life movement.
Willke is a Romney surrogate, who supported the presidential nominee’s pro-life and pro-family agenda in the 2008 presidential primary.
Willke was quoted in Tuesday’s New York Times as saying, “that because rape makes women “uptight” it decreases the likelihood they will get pregnant during a violent encounter.”
Personally I think Romney is more moderate than he is letting on, but coming into the 2012 election he decided to run hard to the right. When you get in bed with these freaks, it might get you a date to the dance but eventually that crazy is going to come out.
There is a sizeable percentage of Republicans who believe in “personhood,” and want to force women to carry babies to term even in the event of rape or incest.
This is making people step back and say, “Wow, that’s what you really think?!?”
Imagine the psychological damage it would cause any woman to carry around a rapist’s baby for nine months.
That is insane.
It’s once again old white men trying to legislate a woman’s body and getting it horribly wrong.
What this Akin moment does is characterizes the Republican Party as a bunch of out of touch “knuckle draggers” who believe in junk science.
Romney has been trying desperately to talk about issues but keeps getting caught up in off-shore tax shelters, when he truly left Bain Capital, why he refuses to turn over further income tax returns, and now re-defining rape.
Romney can’t get any traction, and partly that is because he is being deceptive and refuses to deal in specifics.
This plays right into the Obama campaign’s strategy to win. They intend to establish reasonable doubt about Romney over the summer so he is dead on arrival in the fall.
It’s just surprising how easily Romney has fallen into this trap.
Ultimately what this Akin controversy shows is Republicans feel social issues, like abortion, are of a higher priority than the economy, even during this time of great financial hardship.
That is because the Republican leadership is quite wealthy. They want to win the White House in order to get the tax breaks, loopholes and favorable business rulings that will make them wealthier.
To do that they will throw red meat issues, like no abortion in cases of rape or incest, to the fanatic right-wing and the Tea Party in exchange for their votes.
The problem is this entirely undercuts the credibility of the Republican message.
You can’t scream about wanting smaller government then turn to the most personal of issues, pregnancy/abortion, and suddenly advocate installing big government into everyone’s bedrooms.
While Akin has apologized for his remarks, his beliefs behind those statements remain, and they are at the heart of the Republican Party.
Romney is stuck. He can’t backtrack from his far-right pandering, and he already has high negatives with young people, African-Americans, Hispanics and women.
If Akin continues to refuse to step down from Missouri’s Senate race, it will dog the GOP presidential ticket all the way to November.
It also calls into question the fragile perception that Romney is a viable alternative to President Obama.
It calls into question Romney’s ability to lead.