12:47 pm Aug. 20, 20121
Chuck Schumer's prediction about all incumbent Senate Democrats winning re-election looks a little better now, after Republican congressman Todd Akin suggested to a Missouri television station that women are less likely to get pregnant from "legitimate rape."
Akin is running against Claire McCaskill, a close friend of Schumer's since he helped her get elected in the anti-George W. Bush wave of 2006, and one of the Democrats' most vulnerable incumbents.
In races like McCaskill's, in states where Obama failed to win in 2008, Schumer and the Democrats are counting on a contrast with highly conservative candidates like Akin.
"In intense races in the Senate, the voters get a glimpse of the soul of each person running, who they are, what makes them tick," Schumer told me back in May. "And I think we have a major advantage in our tough races in that. You take again the three or four toughest seats, and when they see a [Jon] Tester, when they see a McCaskill, they see a [Sherrod] Brown, a Bill Nelson, compared to who their opponent is, it's going to make a big difference, and help us, even when the trend might be negative."
McCaskill made the same point on "Morning Joe" on Monday.
“This statement is kind of a window into Todd Akin’s mind," she said, adding, "I know there are people that are out of the mainstream that really support Todd Akin. But for most Missourians, I hope this is a gut-check moment when they realize this is not somebody we want speaking for us on the floor of the United States Senate."
McCaskill, a genial moderate, bolstered Akin's candidacy in the primary, investing $2 million in ads to publicize his conservative credentials, in the hopes of drawing just such a contrast.
Democrats are hoping that a slew of conservative candidates, including the uncompromising Richard Mourdock in Indiana and Tea Party wunderkind Josh Mandel in Ohio, can help preserve the Democratic majority, like some other conservatives did in 2010, when Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle thwarted hopes for Republican gains in highly winnable races.
Democrats hope Akin's comments can have an impact on other races, too. The party has recruited an unprecedented number of women Senate candidates this cycle, and Akin's remarks force Republican candidates in other states to play defense against the ongoing narrative of a Republican "war on women," at least temporarily.
On Monday morning, Scott Brown, who is running against Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, became the first high-profile Republican to call for Akin's removal from the ballot.
“As a husband and father of two young women, I found Todd Akin’s comments about women and rape outrageous, inappropriate and wrong," Brown said in a statement posted to his campaign website. "There is no place in our public discourse for this type of offensive thinking. Not only should he apologize, but I believe Rep. Akin’s statement was so far out of bounds that he should resign the nomination for US Senate in Missouri.”