Even as they gear up their party convention in Tampa, top Republicans still were forced to spend much of Sunday repudiating the “legitimate rape” comments made by Rep. W. Todd Akin of Missouri and reiterating their calls for the U.S. Senate hopeful to quit the race.
The ordeal is especially a distraction for presumed presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who is already facing a substantial deficit among female voters who, polls show, lean toward President Obama by a significant margin.
“I think it was a terrible statement on his part. I think it was uninformed; I think it was outrageous and offensive,” Mr. Romney said on “Fox News Sunday,” repeating his call for Mr. Akin to exit the U.S. Senate contest in which he had been favored to defeat incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.
She has taken a substantial lead, with one poll showing a 21-point swing in her favor, since Mr. Akin made his now infamous statement.
Mr. Romney took particular aim at recent Democratic ads tying the Republican campaign to Mr. Akin, including a commercial attacking the fictitious “Romney/Ryan/Akin” ticket, an attempt to widen Mr. Obama’s lead with female voters.
Mr. Romney blasted such attacks as another example of the president’s “campaign of hate.”
Meanwhile, Democrats on Sunday again latched onto the Akin comments. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said the GOP wants to take the U.S. “back to the days of ‘Ozzie and Harriet,’ ” insinuating the party does not welcome voters who aren’t white men and envisions American life only as it was portrayed in the 1950s television show.
Democrats are also expanding their criticism to the Republican Party platform, which explicitly condemns abortion and calls for, as it has since 1980, a constitutional ban without mentioning an exception in the “hard cases” of rape, incest or a threat to the mother’s life.
“The idea that we would put in our U.S. Constitution an amendment that says women can’t get an abortion even in the case of incest and rape is way beyond the mainstream,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a Democrat, speaking on ABC’s “This Week.”
Republicans have tried to change the conversation by strong-arming Mr. Akin out of the race, though the candidate has made clear in recent days that he isn’t going anywhere. His refusal to quit puts the Republican Party’s effort to regain control of the Senate in jeopardy, said Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, on CBS-TV’s “Face the Nation.”
“The decision is his to make,” he said. “Ultimately all we can do is inform someone in the position that he’s in right now of what it means for our chances to win a seat that we should win and what that means for the country. If Republicans get a majority in the Senate, this country will be that much closer to getting things turned around. That’s what the stakes are … his statements make it much more difficult, borderline impossible, for him to win that race.”
But while the vast majority of Republicans try to get Mr. Akin to quit the race, one prominent Republican has defended him. Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said that while Mr. Akin’s comments are “indefensible,” he is troubled by the speed with which the party has thrown Mr. Akin under the bus.
“My issue was, you’ve had so many Republicans distance themselves from him over a comment he made, and I think of all the Republicans who have done foolish things and you didn’t see that kind of backlash,” he said.
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Ben Wolfgang is a national reporter for The Washington Times. Before coming to the Times, he spent four years as a political reporter in Pennsylvania. His focus is on education and science policy. Ben lives in southeast D.C. and has played guitar in several bands while still in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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