The XX Factor

Todd Akin Is Thinking About Running for Senate. Legitimately.  

Todd Akin, martyr for the cause.  

Photo by Whitney Curtis/Getty Images

After he published a book and did some disastrous press coverage to support it, it’s no big surprise that Todd Akin is taking the next step in his attempted comeback: floating the possibility of running for office. The Hill reports that Akin is considering another go at becoming a senator from Missouri, this time intending to challenge Republican Sen. Roy Blunt in 2016. Akin, you probably remember, was a congressman from Missouri on track to beat the incumbent Democrat, Sen. Claire McCaskill in 2012, until he claimed that women cannot get pregnant from “legitimate rape,” which cost him the election. 

“I have not ruled anything out,” Akin told the Hill, which is standard politician-speak for “I am running” or “I am dying for attention even though I won’t ultimately run.” Why might Akin go for it? “I think there is a high level of dissatisfaction among conservatives, that they have to some degree been pushed out of the Republican Party,” he said. In reality, research by political scientists shows that the GOP has been drifting rightward for decades now, and hardline conservatives have more control over the party now than they have had in more than 100 years.  

But while his statements don’t have much basis in facts, they do fit into what is clearly shaping up to be Akin’s narrative for his comeback, which is that he is a martyr for the cause of social conservatism. “Now, the GOP pariah says if he did run, it’d be to try to move his party away from a singular focus on economic issues, which he says has come at the expense of social issues, like abortion,” Hill reporter Jonathan Easley writes.

Again, there’s no real-world proof for Akin’s claims here. Republicans both in the states and in Congress continue to try to restrict abortion access in any way they can. One shudders to think what more they could be doing to try to assault women’s rights, honestly.

The reason that Akin doesn’t get much support from establishment Republicans isn’t because of his belief that women cry rape in order to hide that their pregnancies are due to consensual sex. After all, a bill that had that belief baked into it—it required rape victims to produce a police report in order to obtain abortions, to prove their rapes were, in a word, legitimate—very nearly passed Congress in January, only to be halted at the last minute by female Republicans who really want their male colleagues to let this whole rape thing go.  You don’t see anyone trying to run the backers of that bill out of office. Akin was just more blunt about this belief when he came up with his infamous “legitimate rape” phrase. So really, it’s not social conservatives who are being marginalized in Republican circles, but those who are less than deft with euphemisms.