Mitt Romney finally got himself a break. People stopped asking about his taxes and demanding that he provide years of tax returns.
That was the good news. The bad news was that an obscure Republican member of Congress, thrust into the national spotlight by winning a three-way primary in Missouri for the chance to take on endangered Sen. Claire McCaskill, dominated the news cycles for days over his bone-headed comments about rape – and then his defiant refusal to bow out of the race despite entreaties from GOP luminaries including Romney and vice presidential pick Paul Ryan.
Rep. Todd Akin was believed ready to walk the plank as early as Monday afternoon. But then, perhaps looking at the playbook of Moammar Gaddafi or Bashar al-Assad, decided this was no time to put himself in political exile.
He vowed to stay in his race, make it a referendum on abortion, and even win in November. Never mind that abortion has been legal since a Supreme Court ruling in the 1970s, and just about anything that ever could be said either for or against the procedure has been said ad nauseam, Akin did manage to come up with something new, coining the phrase “legitimate rape.” Had he stuck to familiar bromides, we might still be talking about Romney’s taxes.
Ruth Marcus said the Akin comments were “so self-evidently offensive and ignorant they scarcely require a response.” But then, noting the self-preservation instinct and cynicism that affects both parties, Marcus unloaded: “Disagreement is when you differ over the proper tax treatment of capital gains income. When an ally comes under assault, the first impulse of politicians of both parties is to circle the political wagons, to concede only as much as politically necessary and not a millimeter more. … “The second impulse is to throw the offending person under the bus. As the outrage over Akin’s remarks mounted, so did the tone of the Romney campaign’s rhetoric.”
Kathleen Parker says “the gender gap exists for a reason.
“Akin’s gift to Democrats wasn’t just a probable campaign killer for him personally,” she writes. “It also reminded critics that Akin once co-sponsored legislation with Paul Ryan redefining rape as ‘forcible’ versus, what, voluntary? To be fair, there is a difference between morning-after remorse that some call ‘rape’ and rape as most understand it. But for these purposes, as President Obama said, ‘Rape is rape.’ Does a raped woman need bruises to qualify for an abortion?”
Dana Milbank sees the GOP in collapse mode.
“By most earthly measures, President Obama has no business being re-elected. No president since World War II has won reelection with the unemployment rate north of 7.4 percent. Of the presidents during that time who were returned to office, GDP growth averaged 4.7 percent during the first nine months of the election year — more than double the current rate.
“But instead of being swept into office by the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression, Republicans are in danger of losing an election that is theirs to lose.”
And to think, before Mount Akin erupted, Team Romney was beginning to show a bit of a rebound after getting hammered following the Ryan rollout.
Michael Gerson took President Obama to the woodshed for running such a negative campaign.
“The Obama campaign is veering toward antinomianism,” he
writes. “Since it regards its own motives as pure, it feels it can dispense with the normal rules of accuracy, civility and decency.
So we get the political methods of Spiro Agnew combined with the moral self-regard of Woodrow Wilson. It is not an attractive mixture.”
And Charles Krauthammer chimed in: “While Ryan’s effect on 2012 is as yet undetermined … there is less doubt about the meaning of Ryan’s selection for beyond 2012. He could well become the face of Republicanism for a generation.”