Representative Todd Akin, this year’s GOP candidate in the Missouri U.S. Senate race, has highlighted campaign-killing idiocies that provide valuable lessons for Republicans.
Everyone is now familiar with Akin’s idiotic response to a question concerning his pro-life views as they apply to abortion in cases of rape and incest: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
Where did this guy learn his biology? Of course, he is a religious fundamentalist and many of them believe that humans rode around on dinosaurs only six thousand years ago. Don’t put this guy on the science committee!
But Akin’s comment reflects a deeper problem.
Major Republicans (from Mitt Romney on down) as well as top conservative commentators (like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham) have called for Akin to pull out of the race. They fear that he is now likely to lose in his bid to unseat Senator Claire McCaskill, the Democrat, which likely would mean that the GOP fails to win control of the Senate. Worse, pollster Scott Rasmussen finds that Missouri, which was leaning toward Romney for president, now slightly favors Obama. If Romney loses Missouri, Obama likely will be reelected.
And here’s another data point of interest. Democratic Party supporters apparently put money into the Missouri Republican primary to back Akin’s nomination because they saw him as the weakest potential candidate against McCaskill. And they were right. But it is important for limited-government Republicans, and anyone else who wants to see the powers of the state reined in, to understand the exact reasons why.
A first factor to consider when choosing a candidate is his or her views concerning government and public policy. Social conservatives like Akin, rather than keeping their eyes on the prize of turning back the socialist tide that has been swamping America for decades, worry about other people’s sex lives.
A second factor is whether a candidate is intelligent and articulate enough to convince voters of the rightness of limited government views, and to be an effective lawmaker. In 2010, I called this second factor the “ Crane rule,” after the Cato Institute’s founder and president Ed Crane. My former boss rightly argued that to be effective, advocates of pro-freedom ideas that might seem radical today must show themselves as serious, thoughtful, and credible.
One reason why Republicans failed to win the Senate in 2010 was that Delaware GOP senatorial candidate Christine O’Donnell came off as a ditz and a crybaby, and Nevada GOP senatorial candidate Sharron Angle spent a lot of time avoiding the press for fear of saying something stupid rather than using the media as a bully pulpit to articulate the pro-freedom philosophy.
Akin clearly fails the Crane rule. And perhaps his greatest idiocy is that he is staying in the race. He is likely to go the way of O’Donnell and Angle. The lesson for Republicans: If you want to roll back government, don’t be idiots by picking candidates prone to idiocies.
Hudgins is director of advocacy for The Atlas Society.