Congress
5:15 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

For Republicans, Silence Is Golden When It Comes To Akin's Book

(Updated 4 p.m. Tuesday, July 15)

Former U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Wildwood, is continuing this week to make the rounds of the national news outlets as he promotes his new book, “Firing Back.”

Todd Akin
Credit (UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

But most Republicans, nationally and in Missouri, are continuing to ignore his book – and him.

In the book, Akin generally defends his controversial 2012 contention that in cases of “legitimate rape,’’ women rarely get pregnant because “their bodies have ways of shutting the whole thing down.”

He also blasts many national and regional Republicans for what he perceives as their role in hurting his 2012 campaign for the U.S. Senate, in which he lost badly to Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill -- seen at the time as one of the Senate's most vulnerable Democrats.

But now, when asked about Akin,  Republicans generally have little to say. A statement by a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, was typical.

“Congresswoman Wagner hasn’t read the book’’ and has no plans to do so, said spokesman Patrick Howell. He added that she was focused on the needs of her district and “is not going to focus on the past.”

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., was equally dismissive. “Sen. Blunt appreciates the service Todd Akin has given to our country and the service his sons continue to give," a spokeswoman said. "He thinks Congressman Akin is a good man and well-intentioned, but based on what he has heard about the book, Sen. Blunt has decided not to read it.”

Wagner and Blunt were the only Missouri Republicans to make a public statement about Akin’s book.  The state Republican Party and other GOP officeholders demurred or didn't return calls.

Akin sharply criticizes Blunt in the book.  Wagner, by the way, isn’t mentioned in Akin’s book, even though she figured prominently in some of the behind-the-scenes talk by Republicans eager to force Akin off the ballot and replace him with another candidate. Wagner, who was running for Congress at the time, was often mentioned as a possible replacement for Akin – to the point where she had to deny publicly any interest in the Senate in 2012.

Democrats May Resurrect Akin As Campaign Issue

In 2012, Akin captured lots of unwanted national attention when -- just weeks after winning a nasty three-way GOP primary -- he appeared on KTVI-TV (Channel 2) and offered up his philosophy about rape during a lengthy interview with host Charles Jaco.

McCaskill had made no secret for months that she hoped to face Akin in the November 2012 general election.  She took the unprecedented step, for a Missouri Democrat, to run a series of three ads against all three Republicans before the August 2012 primary. Her ad against Akin was seen as actually promoting him to conservatives.

McCaskill’s latest comments about Akin’s book fit in with her longstanding contention that the controversy, in 2012 and now, is “not what Todd Akin said, it’s what he believes.”

“I’ve read the book. He doubled-down on all of his extreme positions against school lunch programs, against college student loan programs provided by the federal government,’’ McCaskill said. “He said he was not sorry for what he said about women having some sort of magical power to reject rapists.”

McCaskill then sought to use the renewed attention on Akin’s views to make a pitch for Democratic candidates this fall. She said that most of the Republicans in the state Capitol share Akin’s opinions. “What I hope this is, is a wake-up call for moderates in this state,” McCaskill said.

Dave Robertson, a political science professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, wasn’t surprised by McCaskill’s jab – or by the silence from most Republican officeholders.

“For Republicans, Todd Akin generally was a divisive and embarrassing figure,’’ Robertson said. “Taking a position (on his book) probably doesn’t make any sense for any leading Republican officeholder.”

Democrats apparently see political promise in Akin's book. By Tuesday, McCaskill was sending out fundraising emails that focus on Akin's latest published comments.

With a headline entitled that Akin "is baack, and he's not sorry,''  McCaskill asks supporters, "Please contribute $5 today and help me defend against right-wing extremism."

She also observed that it took her only "an hour and forty-five minutes'' to read Akin's book.

Dale Singer of St. Louis Public Radio contributed to this article.