Todd Akin Must Go
UPDATE: Will he? Won't he? Who knows, but here's where I was at 10 minutes ago...
If I were advising Todd Akin, I'd say two words: “Get out.”
There are two activities where stupidity is punished by brutal, Darwinian action: aviation and politics. It's not that they're hard, just very unforgiving. Todd Akin just flew his campaign into the ground. I let it play out for 24 hours, but I'm done. I can forgive a lot, but this is a gaffe too far.
He should be replaced. Today.
It's legal. It's not difficult. It's smart politics. It will help secure the Senate and confound the media narrative central to Obama and the DNC's wider aspirations.
I'll save the litigation over abortion for another day, but Akin's statement (“legitimate rape” will set the pro-life movement back years if this plays out) was so egregiously stupid – and its aftermath so poorly handled – that it betrays a man unprepared for this contest, unable to think on his feet and unwilling to focus relentlessly on a path to victory.
In the era of the Twitter and Google Panopticon, Akin's mistake was amplified instantly, and the Obama campaign and every floundering Democrat grabbed it like a lifeline. Barack Obama took to the press room moments ago to hang Akin's stupidity around Mitt Romney's neck.
Which is why he has to go.
You rarely see a clearer example that there is still a role – both political and legal – for state parties to play, even in the Tea Party era.
Good ones know when it's time to take a lame horse out back and put a bullet in. They know when to exercise adult supervision. Today is the day the Missouri GOP, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the SuperPAC community should tell Todd Akin that it's over. Crossroads and Senator Cornyn already sent a shot across his bow as I was writing this, which is a good, and necessary signal.
Some of you will object. You'll say we're throwing a conservative under the bus. You're mistaken: Todd Akin failed to prepare and his team failed to manage him. Todd Akin got the bus schedule, laid down in front of it and let himself be crushed, and whatever clown college produced his consultants should be ashamed.
You'll argue Akin won the primary. He did, with Claire McCaskill's abundant financial help. I admire her political chops: she spotted the Akin time bomb, and paid for his win. She's probably disappointed he didn't wait longer to blow himself up, but he has, and it's time for him to go. Her smug, sanctimonious performances on television today were telling, and you could see she was a woman who had found a lifeboat after the ship went down.
If Akin goes, Claire McCaskill is entirely beatable. Missouri is trending away from Obama, and Claire's numbers have been bleeding out over the past year. A massive outside investment has taken a toll on her, and if you take away the Akin bump and she has nothing, either politically or financially to fall back on: the decline in her numbers was, until this weapons-grade stupidity – inexorable.
When yesterday's Todd Akin gaffe accelerated into an incandescent Twitter fury, I was disappointed at the reflexive, frankly silly response from some on the right. It was an illustration that the energy and vigor of grassroots conservatism still needs some tempering. Mostly, it took the form of, "But liberals ignored rapes at Occupy Wall Street” or “Celebrity X said something stupid about rape, so it's just as bad.”
God love you, but that stuff won't win a Senate seat.
You want to wage a Breitbartian always-on war on the left? I'm all for it. You want to teach a lesson in media hypocrisy or double standards or political correctness? Go for it. You want to try to shock the national media into a sudden revelation of how in the tank they are? Sure, have at it. Those activities are necessary, but not sufficient in politics. I've been a made guy in the VWRC since a lot of you were in high school, and it's important to know the difference between what you want, and what you must do.
Fight those good fights, but recognize objective reality when it's slapping you in the face: Todd Akin is a bad – and badly managed – candidate who has damaged his chances. Didn't we learn in 2010 that candidate quality is decisive? Perhaps Senators O'Donnell and Angle will refresh your memories. Oh...wait.
This is simple, operational, victory-centric politics. Do you want to win this seat or not? Do you want to have this as a distraction in the national campaign, or not? Do you want to give the Obama team one more scare tactic for suburban women voters, or not?
I'm sure the chest-thumping will feel great when we're a vote short of repealing Obamacare. Or a vote short of getting a conservative justice on the Supreme Court. Or a vote short of (God forbid) blocking a liberal Obama justice on the Supreme Court. I'm sure we'll love having Harry Reid as Majority Leader again. I'm sure we'll be so proud you stayed pure when we have to slog out millions more in TV ads in Missouri to defend this clown show when we could be winning elsewhere.
If we replace Akin, we take this Senate seat. Call me a cynical consultant-class RINO. Call me morally ambiguous. Call me a bastard. Just take action and do the smart thing. If I'm wrong, it won't be the first time a U.S. Senator was pissed at me.
Todd Akin must go. It should be done today.
Disclosure note: I don't have a dog in this fight. I know, and am friendly with Sarah Steelman, but did not play a role in her campaign nor did I communicate with her before writing this piece.