By now you’ve probably heard that in an interview released today, Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri, the Republican nominee for Senate, said that women’s bodies had an innate but unspecified mechanism that prevented pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape.” Presumably, everyone reading this knows that as important as consent is, it is not a prerequisite for conception.
There’s an eye-popping level of ignorance on display here, not to mention the neanderthal reference to ‘legitimate’ rape. But let’s step back from the immediate shock value and look at the bigger picture for the 2012 election. It’s more or less understood that Republicans gave up their chance of winning the Senate in the landslide 2010 election by nominating a series of completely unhinged candidates in races that simply normal candidates probably could have won. Think Christine O’Donnell or Sharron Angle.
Now, Missouri is a reddish tinged state that requires a certain kind of Democrat to win in consistently. So far this year, incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill is probably one of the most endangered in the entire cycle. She was consistently running between 5 and 10 points behind the woman who would have been her strongest opponent Sarah Steelman. And for now she’s a similar number behind Akin, though there hasn’t been a lot of polling since Akin won the nomination.
As toxic comments (it’s not right to call it a gaffe) go, especially in races where gender is likely to play a significant role, this is about as big as it gets. Still, I doubt, in itself its enough to turn an election with this big a margin. But then again, it’s only August.
Akin taking the nomination was probably the best news for McCaskill all year. And this goof might be enough to make the race at least competitive. So just how big a price will the GOP pay for the Tea Party this year?
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.