Video: "Legitimate" rape? Update: Steelman blasts Akin

Until yesterday, Todd Akin had a comfortable polling lead in Missouri over incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill in what had been the most vulnerable seat for Democrats this cycle.  Suddenly, one has to ask whether Akin has a, er, legitimate chance of beating McCaskill, or even a legitimate chance of avoiding a Torricelli maneuver:

In the clip, Charles Jaco, of St. Louis Fox affiliate KTVI’s “Jaco Report,” asks Akin whether he thinks abortions ought to permissible in a situation where a woman is raped. While explaining his position, Akin claimed that pregnancy only rarely results from “legitimate rape.”

“Well you know, people always want to make it as one of those things where how do you slice this particularly tough, sort of ethical question,” he replied. “It seems to me first of all, from what I understand from doctors — that’s really rare. 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 on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

Good grief.  First, pregnancy from rape isn’t all that uncommon, as Twitchy discovered with just a little research; it’s around 5%.  At least one researcher has found that conception rates for rape actually exceeds that of single instances of consensual sex. Second, what in Akin’s mind constitutes legitimate rape?  Was he trying to distinguish between forcible rape and statutory rape?  If so, that’s a pretty fine distinction, and one that’s really nonsensical even in the argument Akin was trying to make.  And if he wanted to suggest that some women would lie about being raped in order to secure an abortion, then he’s really setting up an argument that any woman who is pregnant couldn’t really have been raped … which as noted above is simply not the case.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan distanced themselves from Akin’s argument at light speed:

A spokeswoman for Mitt Romney wrote late Sunday that the presumptive GOP presidential nominee and his running mate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, did not share Rep. Todd Akin’s sentiments on rape.

“Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape,” Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg wrote.

Even Akin himself repudiated his earlier remarks:

“As a member of Congress, I believe that working to protect the most vulnerable in our society is one of my most important responsibilities, and that includes protecting both the unborn and victims of sexual assault.  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.  Those who perpetrate these crimes are the lowest of the low in our society and their victims will have no stronger advocate in the Senate to help ensure they have the justice they deserve.

“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. I also recognize that there are those who, like my opponent, support abortion and I understand I may not have their support in this election.

“But I also believe that this election is about a wide-range of very important issues, starting with the economy and the type of country we will be leaving our children and grandchildren.  We’ve had 42 straight months of unacceptably high unemployment, trillion dollar deficits, and Democratic leaders in Washington who are focused on growing government, instead of jobs.  That is my primary focus in this campaign and while there are those who want to distract from that, knowing they cannot defend the Democrats’ failed economic record of the last four years, that will continue to be my focus in the months ahead.”

“Those who want to distract from that” got a big boost from Akin himself.

Can Republicans replace Akin, if they so choose?  Apparently they can — but the deadline is tomorrow.  Of course, deadlines didn’t matter when Robert Torricelli became a political pariah in New Jersey, but there are a couple of differences.  First, it involved actual corruption, not a case of foot-in-mouth disease, and second, Torricelli was a Democrat.  If Republicans want Akin off the ticket, they’d have to act quickly, which means it won’t happen at all.

That means that Missouri will probably see a lot of debate over “legitimate,” and Republicans had better hope that Akin can legitimately change the subject soon.

Update: Chuck Todd hints that there may be more time than we think if Akin withdraws:

Well, the whole thing’s getting pretty complicated now, isn’t it?

Update II: Sarah Steelman, one of two challengers against Akin in the primary and Sarah Palin’s endorsed choice, blasted Akin this morning on Twitter:

On the other hand, poll analyst Sean Trende reminds us that politicians who say stupid things often don’t pay as much of a price as we’d think:

I’m not sure that this is a comforting thought.

Update III: Even less comforting — Clayton Williams actually lost that election in 1990 to Ann Richards.