Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), whose comments Sunday that “legitimate rape” is biologically unlikely to cause pregnancy sparked a firestorm, earned gushing praise from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) last year when he declared his candidacy for Senate. His comments were so glowing that Ryan had to clarify later that they did not constitute an endorsement.
“Todd Akin has been a great asset to the House Budget Committee,” Ryan said in a joint press release last November with fellow House leaders, including NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions, and Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan. “His principled approach to fiscal responsibility is exactly the kind of leadership America needs and I appreciate his hard work.”
Akin touted Ryan’s praise as a major asset, prompting his GOP primary rivals to accuse Akin of misleading by implying Ryan had endorsed him in the race. Ryan’s spokesman quickly clarified at the time that he merely was “applauding Rep. Akin’s work on the House Budget Committee,” not giving his official backing, according to Politico.
Although best known for his budget work, Ryan is firmly within the right wing of his party on abortion. The Obama campaign recently released a TV adhighlighting Ryan’s support for banning abortions without exceptions for rape and incest and, in certain cases, even the health of the mother.
Top Democrats are already trying to connect Akin’s recent remarks to Ryan’s shared record on key votes, most notably a bill they co-sponsored barring taxpayer funding for abortion that distinguished pregnancies resulting from “forcible rape” — language that was ultimately scrapped after an uproar.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.