The devastatingly bad candidacy of Todd Akin — and how it could cost Republicans the Senate

September 28, 2012

Missouri Rep. Todd Akin's latest assertion that Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) had acted more "ladylike" in her 2006 Senate campaign than in their 2012 race affirmed a very simple fact: Akin is just not a very good candidate.

But to simply say that Akin is bad in some ways sells him short -- or long -- when it comes to the broader impact that his candidacy is having on his party's hopes of re-taking the Senate majority in November.

Until Akin uttered the words "legitimate rape" shortly after winning his party's Senate nomination last month, most political handicappers -- including us -- expected that he would beat McCaskill.

"The outcome in Missouri was a near certainty before Todd Akin's comment," said one senior Republican Senate strategist. "McCaskill was going to lose. Now, she is likely to win."

After all, McCaskill had won the seat in 2006 by less than 50,000 votes in one of the best Democratic years in modern memory. And in the intervening six years, McCaskill emerged as one of the most prominent backers of President Obama -- not exactly a popular figure in the Show Me State these days -- and weathered a brutal run of bad press over a private airplane owned by her and her husband.

Of course, all of that is out the window now that Akin has turned the race into a referendum on his own views in things like "legitimate rape" and the term "ladylike."

And when it comes to the narrow math for Republicans re-taking the Senate majority, the shift in Missouri amounts to a major moment. If Akin had simply said nothing after winning the Republican nomination, we would be talking about three Democratic seats looking likely to go the GOP's way: Nebraska, North Dakota and Missouri. Assuming they could hold their own seats -- with the exception of Maine where independent former governor Angus King is the likely winner -- that would have put Senate Republicans just two seats from the majority -- even if Obama was re-elected.

Take Missouri out of that mix and what looked decidedly doable for Senate Republicans starts to look far less likely. With Missouri almost certainly a Democratic hold, Republicans now need not only to hold Nebraska and North Dakota but then also pick up three more seats to be in the majority in 2013. 

Here's our latest Senate map:

Make no mistake: Akin blowing up the Missouri race isn't the only factor in Republicans' increasingly dim chances of winning control. Movement toward Democrats in Indiana, Massachusetts, Virginia and Wisconsin -- to name a few -- has made a Senate majority a longer shot than it looked even two weeks ago.

But Akin's implosion -- not to mention the massive amount of national media his collapse has engendered -- is, without question, a blow that is felt far beyond the borders of Missouri.

If Republicans come up short on Nov. 6, Akin's name will be added to an ignominious list that includes the likes of Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle -- candidates who cost the GOP not just Senate seats, but a chance at the majority.

Polls show tight races in N.C., Nev., Va.: In contrast to other recent swing state polls, a few polls released Thursday evening suggest certain states remain very close.

A new Suffolk University survey showed the presidential and Senate races remain close in Virginia, and swing state polls from NBC News and Marist College show tight races in Nevada and North Carolina.

Suffolk shows Obama at 46 percent and Romney at 44 percent. In the Senate race, former senator George Allen (R) and former Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine (D) are tied at 44 percent.

Polls last week, including from the Washington Post, showed Obama and Kaine beginning to edge ahead in their respective races. The Post poll showed both Obama and Kaine up by eight points each.

Marist shows Obama up two points each in Nevada and North Carolina -- within the margin of error -- but he leads by seven points in a third state, New Hampshire.

The Nevada poll also shows Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) leading by six points -- his biggest edge to date in a live-interviewer poll.

Fixbits:

Romney ties defense cuts to veterans committing suicide.

Romney's campaign issues a memo lowering debate expectations.

Paul Ryan says Romney won't be taking it easy on Obama at debates.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court will not reinstate the state's Voter ID law in time for the November election. The law has been struck down by two lower courts.

Another new ad from Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) hits Elizabeth Warren (D) on her claim to Native American heritage, saying she "got caught" in a lie.

In the Wisconsin Senate race, former governor Tommy Thompson (R) hits Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) for being "too liberal for Pelosi."

A new Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ad in Virginia hits Allen on women's issues.

A new poll conducted for Rep. Martin Heinrich's (D-N.M.) Senate campaign shows him leading former congresswoman Heather Wilson (R) 52 percent to 44 percent. The poll was conducted by GBA Strategies.

A new ad from North Carolina Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton's (D) gubernatorial campaign features African-Americans criticizing GOP nominee Pat McCrory for not understanding them. McCrory's campaign says it reeks of desperation.

A new poll shows New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) remains popular despite some bad jobs numbers in the state. Voters also largely don't care about his confrontational style.

The Chamber of Commerce is spending $3.3 million on behalf of Republicans in key California congressional races.

A little fun: What our beer says about our politics.

David Petraeus offers a semi-denial of a report that suggested he might become president of Princeton University.

Must-reads:

"D.C. Third Ward Mormons would welcome Romney, even though most are Democrats" -- Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post 

"RNC cuts ties with firm over voter registration allegations" -- Michael Isikoff, NBC News

"Some Administration Officials Were Concerned About Initial White House Push Blaming Benghazi Attack on Mob, Video" -- Jake Tapper, ABC News

"Obama Fills in Blanks of Romney’s Plans, and G.O.P. Sees Falsehoods" -- Michael Cooper, New York Times

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Aaron Blake | September 27, 2012