Anti-Todd Akin commercials: they’re not just for Missouri anymore.
Voters in New York’s 24th Congressional District race turned on their TVs over the weekend and found Akin, the controversial Republican nominee for Senate in Missouri, starring in an ad aimed just at them. The district, which includes Syracuse and miles of Lake Ontario coastline, is represented by Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, a tea party-backed Republican who was swept into office on the 2010 wave. It’s now a top target for flipping for national Democrats, who hope to put the man Buerkle defeated — Dan Maffei — back into office.
Maffei supporters think Akin’s the man to help them get the job done, thanks to his “legitimate rape” comment that has thrown the Missouri Senate race into turmoil.
That part of the plan goes a little like this. “Buerkle cosponsored a bill with Congressman Todd Akin that would redefine the term rape…” intones the narrator in new Maffei ad.
The staunching anti-abortion Buerkle was a co-sponsor of HR 3, the 2011 abortion law that easily passed the Republican-controlled House and originally included language that would outlaw federally-funded abortion coverage except in the case of “forcible rape.” (That phrase is what Akin says he meant when he said “legitimate rape.”)
With that history in hand, Maffei was one of the first Democrats outside of Missouri to use Akin’s comments against another Republican. The day after Akin’s remarks made him into a household name in August, Maffei was out with a statement tying his opponent to the Republican from Missouri.
“Congresswoman Buerkle must explain her support for bills she cosponsored to redefine rape and make abortion illegal for rape victims.” Maffei’s campaign manager Clay Schroers said in a statement. “Does she share Congressman Akin’s radical and appalling views?
Buerkle responded a couple days later, telling a Syracuse paper that “you’ve got to start this discussion by stating how awful rape is” but reaffirming her view — shared with Akin and Ryan among other Republicans — that abortion should be illegal even in the case of rape.
That set up an election that is perhaps more about Akin’s comments than even the Missouri race. While McCaskill has been quick to cast Akin as an extremist, she hasn’t spent much time so far attacking Akin for being as strongly anti-abortion as he is. (That might be because the Missouri electorate is not one where talking up your pro-choice view is always the best move strategically.)
The NY-24 race is being fought on a lot of battlefields. But in trying to cast Buerkle as an extremist, Team Maffei has made Akin a big part of the fight.
Buerkle’s campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment on Maffei’s ad or Akin Monday, but Republicans in the district say they’re not worried.
“It’s a total non-starter,” Wayne County GOP chair Dan Olson told TPM when asked about Maffei’s ads. He said they smacked of desperation to the conservative voters miles away from the district’s population hub in Syracuse.
“We have an outstanding chance of winning,” he said.
Team Maffei say their guy is happy to talk about abortion rights, and Buerkle’s view that they should be just about nonexistent.
“Dan felt it was important for voters in the district to know about Rep. Buerkle’s record on the issue,” Maffei spokesperson Marc Brumer told TPM. Maffei may be on the right track: internal polling released by the DCCC, which is backing Maffei heavily, has shown the Democrat running ahead.