Republicans are scrambling to distance themselves from Rep. Todd Akin. The pace at which the party establishment denounced Akin and called on him to leave his Senate race was swift. They’ve even begun to backtrack from their “no-abortions, no-exceptions” platform after Akin’s thrust the spotlight onto their strict stance — a sign that they know it is outside the mainstream.
But outwardly, Republicans insist that Akin’s remarks will not cost them votes in November. Women, they argue, won’t connect Akin to the rest of the GOP.
“I don’t think women are going to think that this person who clearly had an outrageous interview is the party,” Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said on CNN’ Thursday morning. Women are concerned about the economy, she said.
Hutchison did admit that Akin’s comments were a poorly timed “diversion” from the issues the party should be addressing.
The outgoing Texas senator also argued that the party platform drafted this week in Tampa, which calls for an abortion ban without exceptions for rape and incest, likewise would not alienate women. “I don’t think that anything that was said in the platform is against the focus on protecting life whenever possible,” she said. “And I think most people agree with that.”
Paul Ryan, who has been forced to answer questions about his own opposition to rape and incest exemptions this week, similarly suggested that that fallout over Akin wouldn’t ultimately harm the party.
“And I don’t think [women] going to take the bait of all these distractions that the president is trying to throw at them.”
Other Republicans simply hope that abortion isn’t important enough to women to cost them votes.
“When you ask people what is the most important issue in this race, abortion, I don’t think, makes the top six or seven,” former Rep. Tom Davis, a former NRCC chairman, told Politico. “It may rah-rah your base … [but Romney] repudiated [Akin] right away.”
Republican strategist Steve Schmidt believes Republicans largely dodged the Akin bullet by denouncing him immediately: “Everyone has reacted with such appropriate revulsion to it that it’s not going to be a circumstance that gets away from Republicans like the [Mark] Foley instance in 2006. … I think it’s doom for Todd Akin … but it’s not gonna stick on the rest of the party,” he told Politico.
But not all Republicans are so confident. GOP strategist Mark McKinnon wroteWednesday: “So thank you, Todd Akin. Just as Republicans were opening their show and hoping to widen the tent, you’ve managed to attract attention to yourself and your caveman views. Hear that sound, GOP? That’s women running for the exits — and the big tent collapsing.”
Democrats, of course, are working overtime to make sure McKinnon’s vision comes true. As the title of their latest web video, “The Romney-Ryan-Akin Platform for Women,” makes clear Democrats’ message is that Akin is not an outlier but the face of the GOP.
A senior Obama campaign official drove that point home Thursday in a briefing: “Hurricane Todd,” the official said, has “highlighted what is a completely out-of-step, out-of-touch Republican Party when it come to these issues and I don’t think they can put that genie back in the bottle even if they put Akin off the ticket.”
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.