Friday, August 24, 2012

Election Week in Review...Breakin' Akin Down (August 24, 2012)

If last week was all about Paul Ryan, this week was all about Todd Akin.  The Missouri Representative and Senate candidate expounded on his own rather dimwitted theories of the female reproductive system and defined a new “category” of rape, dropping a bomb with repercussions on virtually every contested November election, including his own, Obama/Romney and the House and Senate races. 

Thus, this became a week devoted to the Akin matter on two levels:  1)  the quest to force Akin off the ticket in November by the GOP, from Romney on down, and 2)  the raising once again of larger gender issues that Mitt Romney would dearly love to avoid.  Sideplots abounded, including Paul Ryan’s relationship with Akin as co-sponsor of a controversial House bill that specifically used an adjective to define a class of sexual assault:  “forcible” rape.  But the bottom line was, once again, the Republican talking points had to be backpocketed while the news cycle spun the whole week around the Akin explosion.

The attempt to get Akin off the ticket failed.  He rather quickly decided to fight the fight, despite the complete abandonment of his Republican colleagues.  The verdict of the polls was rather swift and merciless:

Survey USA
8/9 - 8/12

In the flash of one very bad sentence, Missouri, widely viewed as the easiest Republican pickoff of all the Senate races, suddenly swung toward vulnerable Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill.  (Wow!)    In the race for overall control of the Senate, largely viewed as a dead-heat, one cannot underestimate the impact of the Missouri shift, if it holds.

How this plays out in the Presidential race is unclear.  Romney has an 8-point gender gap, according to Gallup.  (Obama has an identical 8-point gap among men.)  Romney’s tack has thus far been to focus on so-called “pocketbook” issues to appeal to women.  To the extent the election focuses more on social issues, that could widen that gap.  It seems obvious that at least one of the debates will focus on these issues, and how Romney responds could be critical.

Romney’s gender gap is particularly wide among young women, a massive 33 points (63-30) among women 18-29.  Getting this group out to vote could be the decider in the election.  Look for a call to action from Sandra Fluke at the Democratic Convention.

And….just when things couldn’t get wilder, I just heard that Mitt Romney decided to inject…wait for it….the “birther” issue back into the campaign!  Romney, in Michigan, said, apparently spontaneously, “No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate!”  The Gaffe Monster strikes again.  (Or maybe it wasn’t really a gaffe?)

This sure wasn’t the way the Romney team scripted the run-up to the GOP convention next week.  And with Hurricane Todd Akin having already landed, and Hurricane Isaac bearing down, this could end up being more interesting than we might have otherwise thought!  Tune in!

Comments welcome!

Comments welcome! 

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