COMMENTARY | You’ve certainly heard of Todd Akin, thanks to this congressman’s term “legitimate rape” comments when trying to find a way to outlaw abortion for all cases. Even though nearly every Republican is calling him to step down, the Family Research Council wants him to stay.
But unless you’re a master of political trivia, you’re probably trying to remember just who Ken Buck was. Like Akin, Buck was another case of Republican voters picking the most conservative candidate, and wondering why they blew an easy Senate race in Colorado.
Buck, a former prosecutor, knocked off the heavily favored Republican “establishment” candidate, Lt. Governor Jane Norton, by running a tea party insurgency, making a crack about her wearing high heels. That should have tipped off voters that their candidate was a loose cannon.
Sure enough, after he secured the nomination, information surfaced about Buck’s days as a prosecutor, when he refused to prosecute a rape case even though the suspected admitted raping the victim on tape. Buck shrugged it off, describing the accusation as one of “buyer’s remorse,” and opined that the woman set up the encounter, even though he knew she was passed out at the time. Comments about homosexuality being a disease akin to alcoholism didn’t help.
Buck yanked defeat from the jaws of victory, handing the election to interim Senator Michael Bennet, a little-known education official tapped by an unpopular governor to fill a Democrat seat in a year of Republican landslides. Akin threatens to do the same for a vulnerable incumbent, Claire McCaskill.
Akin’s proponents can point to an 11-point lead in a Survey USA poll against McCaskill, but that poll was only one of four with a lead bigger than five points, and that was released late last week. Most of that lead was based upon Akin doing well with independents, something likely to change after his rape comments. In that same poll, Romney was clinging to a one-point lead over Obama in Missouri, while Democratic Governor Jay Nixon had a 14-point lead over Dave Spence. A new poll by Democrat-leaning PPP showed Akin up by only a single point.
So why do the Republicans nominate candidates like Buck, Akin, Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, etc., who blow winnable seats? Conservative voters feel that someone who “tells it like it is” will somehow appeal to mainstream voters. Unfortunately, many of them are far too willing to “tell it like they want it,” forgetting the general election is no longer a race to be the most conservative, and say the most outlandish things to get on television and win ratings, handing elections back to Democrats.
John A. Tures is an associate professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga.