If there is a silver lining to the Todd Akin story in Missouri it is that the Republicans were able to turn a negative into a postive by saying very clearly, "This is not who we are."
Akin, who is running for U.S. Senate in a tightly contested race against a female candidate, famously said that he was only in favor of abortion in the case of a "legitimate rape." He also made the statement that it was his understanding that not many rapes result in pregnancy because of a woman's ability to inhibit procreation in a hostile sexual encounter. The good news is some of the dinosaurs in the Republican Party, some of its most respected and most conservative members said, "Whaaaaaat?" and were willing to take a stand in this situation.
As a moderate Republican woman, that was welcome news. Women do count. And the only reason the Party has agreed to disagree on social issues that affect women is because the economy is such a mess. Still what Akin said crossed a line.
Now comes the news that Akin is in Tampa meeting with conservative Christian groups and seeking their counsel on whether to withdraw from the race. He's already been asked to stay away from the Convention this week and is apparently doing so. Even his co-sponsor on some of the most restrictive anti-abortion legislation in recent years, Vice Presidential pick Paul Ryan, called Akin to say it was time to go for the good of the party. So, why is he in Tampa? Is this some end run to portray himself as a populist Christian firebrand who has to operate outside of the Party a la the Tea Party? I guess we will find out.
I will say kudos to Mitt Romney for taking the stance he did and doing what was right by encouraging Akin to step down. Romney gets labeled and mislabeled because his positions have tightened up but at the end of the day it would serve us to remember that his mother ran for the U.S. Senate on a pro-choice platform. Even his running mate, who is more conservative than he is, has said he will defer to the Boss, who believes in exceptions in cases of rape or incest. I get that Akin is human, and none of us is above making a mistake and asking for forgiveness. But, Akin needs to defer to his Party and recognize how crucial the 2012 election is. And that digging in puts the overall success of the Republicans at risk. As I say over and over, those social conservatives are the slam dunk Republicans but the Moderates and Independents will make or break these elections.
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