Pair of Controversies Could Spell Long Week Ahead for GOP

BY Christina Bellantoni and Terence Burlij  August 20, 2012 at 9:58 AM EST

Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo.

Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., drew criticism for comments made about rape and abortion. Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call.

The Morning Line

It’s been a long week for the Republican Party, and it’s only Monday.

The first of two weekend firestorms started in Missouri, where Rep. Todd Akin, who won the Show Me State’s GOP Senate primary two weeks ago, caused a stir when he was asked about his opposition to abortion in cases of rape.

“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Akin said of pregnancies from rape. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”

The six-term congressman made the comments in an interview with Charles Jaco of KTVI-TV in St. Louis that was posted to the station’s website on Sunday.

Akin moved quickly to clean up his remarks, saying he “misspoke.” But the Tea Party-backed nominee showed no signs of wavering in his views against abortion.

“In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it’s clear that I misspoke in this interview and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year,” he said. “I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue. But I believe deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action.”

Still, the damage was done, with Akin’s comments drawing criticism from members of both political parties. Vulnerable Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, whom Akin hopes to oust in the November general election, called the statement “outrageous.”

“It is beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape,” said McCaskill. “The ideas that Todd Akin has expressed about the serious crime of rape and the impact on its victims are offensive.”

Before the primary, McCaskill actually ran ads boosting Akin, with Democrats saying they believed he was the weakest rival of the field.

The GOP ticket also issued a statement distancing themselves from Akin’s comments.

“Governor [Mitt] Romney and Congressman [Paul] Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement,” the campaign said. “A Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.”

As you can see in our Vote 2012 Map Center, 37 percent of Missourians are evangelical. It’s not the highest percentage in the country, but one that Akin has long planned on appealing to in November.

Mark and David will be back together Friday, and in both Tampa and Charlotte, N.C., we’ll bring you their analysis daily on the NewsHour, during the conventions and in our 24-hour livestream.

2012 LINE ITEMS

  • Are you an undecided voter in Virginia? Here’s your chance to weigh in on the convention and help us with our reporting. If you’re willing to talk to the NewsHour after each nomination speech, fill out this form.

  • Team Romney on Monday released a television ad highlighting the Richmond Times Dispatch’s comments on welfare reform. Team Obama released several ads over the weekend: this television spot goes after Ryan’s record on women’s issues and seven state-specific radio ads attack the GOP ticket.

  • Romney personally vetoed six designs for his convention stage layout, Phil Rucker reports in the Washington Post. And the New York Times’ Jeremy W. Peters previews plans to warm Romney up to America by maknig the stage feel like a giant living room.

  • The Democratic Party announced more convention speakers, including Virginia Senate hopeful and former governor Tim Kaine and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

  • The Washington Post’s Jason Horowitz takes a close look at Romney’s time as leader of the Mormon church in Boston.

  • Politico’s Manu Raju reports that Donald Trump will have a “surprise” role at the upcoming Republican National Convention.

  • The Washington Post’s Jerry Markon finds Ryan has a long record of asking for government funding for his district.

  • Kaiser Health News examines what Ryan’s plan would do to change Medicaid. Check it out, and learn more from our partners at ShoutAbout using the widget below.

  • Politico’s Glenn Thrush dishes dirt from inside the Obama camp in a new e-book.

  • Team Romney spent part of Friday needling the president for a light interview he conducted with KOB FM Radio in Albuquerque, N.M. Romney spokesman Ryan Williams noted: “[H]e talked about the serious challenges facing the nation, such as his favorite chili, the super power he wants, and his favorite workout music. No wonder it’s been nearly 60 days since President Obama took serious questions from the White House press corps.”

  • More than 93,000 people have viewed this video starring an imagined Rafalca talking about his wealthy owners.

  • Here are some photos of Ryan wearing no shirt, courtesy of, natch, TMZ.

  • Just a little something called making history.

TOP TWEETS

OUTSIDE THE LINES

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., apparently inspires love. The New York Times reported Saturday, “There have been 10 weddings so far, and two more scheduled this fall — an average of nearly one ‘Schumer Marriage’ (his term) for each year he has spent in the Senate.”

  • A comedian, a consultant and a politician walk into a bar. Two of them are named Mark Katz.

  • Paul Solman takes a look at summer workers.

  • By this point, Florida is used to being at the center of voter ID wars.

  • The Boston Globe notices that GOP Sen. Scott Brown and Democrat Elizabeth Warren actually are sticking to their pledge not to allow outside spending.

  • Roll Call’s Emily Cahn crunched the numbers in federal disclosures and found that Johnny’s Half Shell is the restaurant of choice for Capitol Hill fundraisers.

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan attend a town hall event in Manchester, N.H., at 10:35 a.m.

  • President Obama attends meetings at the White House and does a series of interviews with local television and print outlets at 2:25 p.m. The president and first lady Michelle Obama will have dinner with winners of a campaign contest at 6:15 p.m.

  • Vice President Joe Biden meets with King Abdullah II of Jordan at the Naval Observatory at 4:15 p.m.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:


For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

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