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The GOP Convention’s Anxiety of Akinism

TAMPA—Todd Akin is not here; it was made abundantly clear to the Missouri Senate candidate, and theorist of women’s ability to prevent conception by “legitimate rape,” that his presence would not be welcome at the GOP convention. But the dread over the impact of his comments lurks in the soupy August air. Consider the reaction I got here when I asked people for their thoughts on the latest outburst of Akinism, remarks yesterday by Pennsylvania’s Republican Senate candidate Tom Smith that seemed to equate a pregnancy caused by a rape to a pregnancy caused by an out-of-wedlock affair. Actually, it’s worse than that—he equated pregnancy caused by a rape to his own daughter’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy:

Tom Smith, the nominee running against Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, made the comment after being asked how he would argue to keep the baby if a daughter or granddaughter were to become pregnant as a result of rape. Smith said that his daughter went through “something similar” to the decision some rape victims have to make, although she was not raped, and that she chose to keep the child. His position on abortion is to ban it without exceptions for cases of rape or incest.
“I lived something similar to that with my own family, and she chose the life, and I commend her for that,” Smith said. “She knew my views, but fortunately for me ... she chose the way I thought.”
Asked how that was similar to rape, Smith said: “Having a baby out of wedlock.”
After another follow-up question, about whether the out-of-wedlock pregnancy was similar to a case of rape, he said: “No, no, no, but, well, put yourself in a father’s position. Yes, I mean, it is similar, this isn’t, but I’m back to the original, I’m pro-life—period.”

I dropped by the daily breakfast for the Pennsylvania delegation at their Tampa hotel, and asked some of the attendees what they made of the comments by their state’s Senate candidate. Their responses were remarkable for their lack of any attempt to defend their fellow Keystone Republican or put his remarks in context. Simply put, you’re on your own, Tom Smith.

State Senator Mike Brubaker: “His comments were unfortunate. In public policy, you need to think twice before you speak. His comments were unfortunate and not representative of the Republican Party...Public officials should not be making comments like that. They should have not have thought processes that follow that line of thinking. It’s very disheartening.”

Congressman Pat Meehan: “It will probably be just one more opportunity to take that issue and raise another perspective on this nuance that some people are projecting. It takes us away from the focus on jobs and economy which needs to be the central plank. I think that he should have been far clearer about where he stood.”

Governor Tom Corbett: “I’m not going to get into that debate. That’s in his race with Senator Casey. We need to keep this race focused on the president and the future of this country.”

An alternate delegate, a woman from northeastern Pennsylvania who asked to remain anonymous: “I winced when I heard it. I couldn’t believe he said that.”

And then we have Mitt Romney himself, who had this to say when asked about abortion on his way from New Hampshire to Tampa:  “Recognize this is the decision that will be made by the Supreme Court,” Romney told CBS. “The Democrats try and make this a political issue every four years, but this is a matter in the courts. It’s been settled for some time in the courts.”

Right. And ... the judges on the court are appointed by ... the president. The anti-abortion activists whom Romney has worked so hard to win over for the past six years or so must be very heartened to realize how much the mere specter of a gaunt Missouri congressman has shunted them aside.

Follow me on Twitter @AlecMacGillis