Representative Todd Akin has decided to stay in the Missouri senatorial race, bucking the national GOP, which desperately wants him tossed under the bus for the spectacularly stupid “legitimate rape” thing, and you know what? Good for him. Leaving aside my own love of political schadenfreude here, the dude did win the Republican primary fair and square, did he not? He is the plurality choice of Missouri’s Republican voters, isn’t he? He didn’t strangle kittens, set them on fire, and insert them into an unmentionable part of some adorable puppy’s anatomy, did he? No; all he really did was say out loud something that an apparently non-trivial number of conservatives seem to believe, i.e., that some rapes are rapier than others, and (probably less common, at least I hope) that at the rapiest level of rape, you probably aren’t gonna get knocked up. It’s appallingly stupid and wrong, of course. But that doesn’t mean he (up until Sunday, anyway) didn’t believe it, or that saying something appallingly stupid and wrong but entirely within the penumbra of conservative thought should disqualify him from participating in a race he earned the right to be in, through a democratic process. “You stupidly said out loud what many of us actually believe,” shouldn’t by any rational standard be a reason for his forfeit.
Yes, he’s embarrassing the GOP presidential candidate by staying in a race after Romney said he should drop out, and yes, the Democrats will use Akin’s comment and his extraordinarily restrictive anti-choice views (reflected, incidentally, in the official GOP platform) like a cudgel on the Republicans every single day that Akin stays in the race. But why is that Akin’s problem? By all indications, he was not the favored candidate of the national GOP anyway, so no skin off his nose. The national GOP says they’re not going to send him money, but if they want to take the Senate, they’re not likely to do it without him, so I imagine sooner or later they’re going to slip some cash his way regardless. So again, what impetus does Akin have to do anything other than run? For the rest of the GOP, it’s about control of the Senate; for Akin, it’s whether or not he has a job come next January. He sure as hell doesn’t have any reason to quit, and winning, should he win, will be sweet indeed.
And yeah, Democrats binging on schadenfreude, he could win. Even after the “forcible rape” flub, he was still up a point in the polls against Claire McCaskill. He might sink — as I understand it, making an ass of yourself on live TV takes a few days to sink in with the polls — but then again he might not. He apologized for his stupidity, and pitched it in a way that will resonate with evangelicals, for many of whom he is the ideal candidate. Don’t kid yourself that he’s lost the race already. And of course, that’s just one more reason for him to stay in.
I wouldn’t vote for Akin; I don’t know why anyone would want to vote for someone so heinously ignorant of human biology, which I suspect is indicative of other vasty swaths of ignorance in his mental makeup. I wouldn’t encourage anyone in Missouri to vote for him either, as we already have enough appallingly ignorant people in the Senate without adding him to their number. But do I think he should be the GOP senatorial candidate for the state? Absolutely. If Mitt Romney, the national GOP or anyone else has a problem with it, they should bring it up with Missouri’s Republican voters. He was their pick for the gig. I think you have to respect that, even if you shake your head that they could choose so poorly.