Akin stays in Missouri race, and continues to face very long odds

August 24, 2012

Photo: AP

Rep. Todd Akin (R) held a news conference this afternoon that had very little news at all: the Missouri Senate candidate plans to stay in his race even after the controversial remarks he made Sunday about "legitimate rape" rarely causing pregnancy.

His Facebook page touts the fundraising milestones that his campaign has recently hit: $125,000 on Thursday and $150,000 today. "Claire McCaskill is rallying her pro-abortion supporters to out-raise us and we can't let that happen," he tells his supporters.

Put aside the fact, just for a moment, that the Republican party has pulled much more than that in the ads it previously planned to run for Akin. The congressman is running a solidly anti-abortion campaign at this point - and he couldn't ask for a better place to do it than Missouri. It's the only state that has sent multiple abortion-related cases to the Supreme Court. It defunded Planned Parenthood back in 1997, over a decade before other states got around to the issue.

But even in the Show-Me-State, Akin's support for a full abortion ban without exceptions is likely a step too far. Here's what Peverill Squire, a political science professor at the University of Missouri, e-mailed me on the issue:

Running on an anti-abortion platform is risky, even in Missouri.  Certainly, many conservatives in the state would be comfortable with such an approach.  But the problems would come in the details.  An absolute ban on abortion without any of the usual qualifiers such as rape or a mother's health would make many Republicans uncomfortable, particularly suburban women.  The GOP here, as elsewhere, is advantaged when the campaign focuses on jobs and the economy.  Akin would still retain most of his supporters by focusing on social issues, but McCaskill would be able to make a strong case to women and political independents.

There's a pretty big difference between "anti-abortion" and "anti-abortion in all cases." About half of Americans self-identify as falling into the first category. The latter group, which includes Akin, has much smaller ranks: 20 percent of Americans believe abortion ought to be illegal in all cases, according to Gallup.

Seventy-five percent, meanwhile, support exceptions from abortion regulations for cases of rape and incest in that same Gallup poll.

Missouri isn't shy about restricting abortion access; the state gets an "F" from NARAL Pro-Choice America on the issue. But a full ban, even in this state, looks like it would likely be a step too far.

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Brad Plumer | August 24, 2012