Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) wasted no time using Rep. Todd Akin’s (R) talk of “legitimate rape” against him in the Missouri Senate debate Friday.
Both candidates tried to paint the other as too far on the fringes for Missouri’s heartland electorate. McCaskill tied Akin to Rep. Michele Bachmann in her opening statement; Akin alleged repeatedly McCaskill had voted with President Obama “82 percent of the time.”
McCaskill rejected Akin’s suggestion that he represents the middle of anything right from the start.
She alluded to Akin’s “controversial statements” in her opening address without directly mentioning the time Akin suggested female biology prevents pregnancy in the case of “legitimate rape.” The moderators drew more out of her with their first question, which asked for each candidate to discuss Akin’s comments.
McCaskill said Akin’s words were still relevant to the election despite the fact that he’s apologized for them after they set off a national firestorm.
“Rep. Akin’s comments opened the window to his views for Missourians,” McCaskill said.
“I believe a rape victim should be allowed to have emergency contraception to avoid pregnancy,” she said. “Todd Akin does not.” McCaskill reiterated her support for emergency contraception, but avoided directly addressing abortion.
McCaskill said Akin’s support for “privatizing Medicare” and eliminating the school lunch program also demonstrated his extreme views.
“This election’s gonna be quite a contrast for Missourians, but not because we’re at opposite ends,” she said. “I’m right in the middle, it’s just [Akin is] so far out on the fringe, and that’s where the contrast comes in.”
Akin tried to put the controversy behind him.
“I’ve answered this question repeatedly,” he said. “I don’t believe this election overall is about talk. It’s really about two visions about what America is.”
That may be true when it comes to McCaskill vs. Akin, but the debate was actually about three visions for America: Libertarian nominee Jonathan Dine joined Akin and McCaskill on the debate stage.
He too attacked Akin over “legitimate rape.”
“I was astonished to fine that Akin sits on the science committee, yet he fails to understand basic 8th grade biology,” Dine said.
Akin, who is part of the tea party wing of the House GOP and McCaskill, a member of the party controlling the Senate, each tried to blame the other for the gridlock crippling Washington.
McCaskill portrayed herself as a moderate, promising to forge a path of compromise, even if it means occasionally challenging her own party. She said the fight to control obesity represented an example of her bucking the Democratic line — she doesn’t believe the government should dictate people’s food choices.
“I honestly think this is a place that the government should probably keep their big nose out,” she said. “I understand it’s a struggle. I’m a woman in my 50s: I have seven sizes of clothes in my closet and I go from one end to the other.”
McCaskill said she supported “role models” like Michelle Obama “encouraging” healthy food and exercise habits but only in “ways that are advisory only, and not in requirement.”
Akin promised to get government out of just about everything else, including food choices. He said he would help repeal “Obamacare” and take the government out of the student-loan businesss.