The chatter this morning is all about Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin, who responded to a question about abortion by claiming pregnancy from rape is rare: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
Akin subsequently said he misspoke, but Dems are working overtime to nationalize the comments and tie them to the Romney-Ryan ticket and to the GOP. Last night, the Romney campaign released a statement distancing the ticket from Akin’s remarks:
Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.
That's good to hear, but Ryan did, in fact, co-sponsor a bill last year — along with Akin — whose goal was seemingly to empower Congress and/or the states to outlaw abortion in all cases, including cases of rape or incest. The bill, the Sanctity of Human Life Act, would not, itself, outlaw the procedure. But here are the two key provisions from the bill:
* The life of each human being begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent, irrespective of sex, health, function or disability, defect, stage of biological development, or condition of dependency, at which time every human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood
*The Congress affirms that the Congress, each State, the District of Columbia, and all United States territories have the authority to protect the lives of all human beings residing in its respective juristictions
The bill — which is stalled in the House — goes on to define the term “human being” to “include each and every member of the species homo sapens at all stages of life, beginning with the earliest stage of development, created by the process of fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent.”
Kevin Drum points out that there are “no exceptions for eggs fertilized by rapists or by your own father.” And as Politifact notes, this bill “empowers states to enact legislation that protects human life from conception.” Politifact also points out that this could include outlawing in vitro fertilization, since that process necessarily results in the destruction of embryos.
Is it unreasonable to look at the above text Ryan co-sponsored and ask whether Ryan actually does — or did — believe that states should have the authority to outlaw abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, and even to outlaw IVF? Of course, one could call the GOP co-sponsors of the bill, and ask them to explain its intent.
By the way: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported during Ryan’s first run for Senate in 1998 that he opposed abortion in all cases except to save the mother’s life.
* Dems slam “legitimate rape” remark: DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz keeps hitting the issue in an email to the DNC list:
Akin’s choice of words isn’t the real issue here. The real issue is a Republican party — led by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan — whose policies on women and their health are dangerously wrong. I’m outraged at the Republicans trying to take women back to the dark ages — f you agree, join me in taking a stand for women. Really, it’s deeply concerning that Republicans continue to support legislation that is, quite literally, dangerous for women.
Dems will continue to seize on this to exacerbate the already-wide gender gap, which has now — crucially — begun to also include non-college whites. (Item edited for accuracy.)
* Obama reelect reality check of the day: Gallup finds that a solid majority of swing state voters (56 percent) say they are not better off than they were four years ago; only 40 percent say they are better off. How can Obama win under such circumstances?
As I’ve been saying here, his best hope may be to fight Romney to a draw on the economy, by persuading those voters that Romney doesn’t have the answer to their problems. Also, as commentators such as Matthew Dowd and Ron Brownstein have noted, swing voters may have vastly diminished expectations as to whether presidents can improve the economy, perhaps enabling Obama to survive despite voters’ sense that things haven’t improved for them.
* GOP convention will try to sell Romney as “warm”: This New York Times headline, on their lead story today on plans for the convention, says it all:
G.O.P. Packaging Seeks to Reveal a Warm Romney
What does it say that such extraordinary production lengths (detailed in the story) are necessary to overcome public perceptions of a figure who has been running for president for many years now?
* Romney campaign keeps lying about welfare: The Romney campaign is up with another ad hitting Obama with the lie that he “gutted” welfare reform by taking work out of it. Is there any point in noting that this claim has been widely debunked as flat-out false?
* Obama botched response to housing crisis: Binjamin Applebaum has a deep dive into one of the least reported stories of the Obama presidency: The sharp contrast between the administration’s aggressive response to the banking and auto-industry crises and its failure to act to alleviate ailing homeowners. As the story details, this could end up being a key decision imperiling Obama’s reelection chances.
* No, Paul Ryan is not fiscally serious: An important point from Paul Krugman about the Beltway willingness to accord Ryan the presumption of fiscal seriousness, even though he simply hasn’t explained how he will make his numbers add up:
The answer, basically, is a triumph of style over substance. Over the longer term, the Ryan plan would end Medicare as we know it — and in Washington, “fiscal responsibility” is often equated with willingness to slash Medicare and Social Security, even if the purported savings would be used to cut taxes on the rich rather than to reduce deficits....The question now is whether Mr. Ryan’s undeserved reputation for honesty and fiscal responsibility can survive his participation in a deeply dishonest and irresponsible presidential campaign.
It’s worth reiterating that the Romney/Ryan “just trust me” strategy extends to his entire campaign, from his tax returns to his major bundlers to huge swaths of his policy proposals.
* The three questions Romney will never answer: Relatedly, Kevin Drum again:
1. Governor Romney, what tax loopholes will you propose closing to make up for the tax cuts on the rich that are part of your economic plan?
2. Your Medicare plan is based on Paul Ryan’s and relies on competitive bidding to bring down costs. But what if the bids all come in above your growth cap of GDP + 0.5%? Who pays the difference? Seniors?
3. That 13% you say you paid in taxes over the past decade — that’s federal income taxes, right? And it’s based on AGI?
Did someone say Romney is running a “just trust me” campaign?
* Demographics trending the Dems’ way in Nevada: Erin McPike has an interesting look at the battle for Nevada, where the growing Latino vote share and Romney’s problems with that constituency are giving Obama an edge despite the state’s highest-in-the-nation unemployment and foreclosure rates. Holding on to the western states gives Obama more breathing room in the event of expected losses in the Rust Belt.
* And Romney’s choice of Ryan an epic gamble: Nate Silver sheds new light on the Ryan pick: It represents a gamble that the GOP can still win national elections by continuing to move to the right and moving away from compromise with Dems, without paying any political price for it . And this is key:
If Republicans are running on Mr. Ryan’s ideas — and winning with them — they will be able to advance a more credible claim that they have a mandate from the public, and that our politics really have shifted to the right.
It’s another way in which the stakes of this election are extraordinarily high.