Missouri Breaks: The Akin Effect
Akin will almost certainly lose. But his continued presence in the race will provide fodder for the Democrats to change the subject and keep the GOP candidates off message, not only at the presidential level, but in Senate and U.S. House races as well. This could last right through November.
There is an enormous gender gap this year, particularly among white voters -- over 30 points in some states. In a few battleground states, Romney is ahead by 2 to 1 among white males and trails among white females. The GOP convention will try to showcase Ann Romney in prime time in an attempt to soften Mitt Romney’s image and address this gender gap, and Condoleezza Rice will also get a speaking spot. But the Obama-supporting national media can be expected to shower the GOP hopefuls at every turn with questions about Todd Akin and the GOP platform on abortion, now an area for intense scrutiny. Anything that drives the deteriorating state of the economy and the evidence of a very weak recovery off the front pages is a blow to the Romney campaign. The Akin mess may haunt the Romney-Ryan ticket over the next ten weeks.
In the fight for Missouri’s 10 Electoral College votes, the race appears to have tightened a bit due to Akin. The average of the latest Rasmussen and Post-Dispatch polls shows Romney ahead by 3 points, where prior polls had Romney ahead by a larger margin. Not surprisingly, the same PPP poll that showed Akin ahead gave Romney a 10-point lead due to the oversampling of Republicans. That result provides as much useful information as the PPP poll in the Senate race -- zero.
The Romney-Ryan ticket got off to a fast start due to the energy of audiences that greeted them, Ryan’s youth, Romney’s more confident style on the stump, and the campaign’s pre-emptive strike on Medicare. Rather than play defense on Congressman Ryan’s plan for Medicare, the Romney campaign launched a tough public campaign, supported by new ads, arguing that Obama stole money from the Medicare program ($716 billion over ten years) to fund a new entitlement for others (Obamacare). The money “saved” in Medicare can not be used both to extend the life of the Medicare program and also to fund Obamacare, despite the lies from the likes of Stephanie Cutter.
And no, the $716 billion in Medicare “savings” are not a result of cutting fraud, abuse, and waste. The fact is that 80% comes from cutting payments to providers, which will undoubtedly reduce the number of doctors and hospitals in the program. Like Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Cutter will say pretty much anything these days to convey that Republicans are evil, and Obama is wonderful, to raucous applause from fans on the left.
This will be an important week for Romney to change the subject back to the economy and introduce himself to the American people in an unfiltered fashion through his acceptance speech. There is a good chance Romney will come out of the convention with a bounce of some sort in the polls. The Democratic convention will likely provide a bounce-back for Obama, though he is not the fresh face this year as he was in 2008. In the final two months of the campaign, Romney’s chances will depend in part on sticking to the themes that make voters want to say "no" to a second Obama term. If Todd Akin cares about the outcome of the presidential race, he can do his part to help by recognizing the inevitable -- that he will lose, that he is a drag on the GOP ticket, and that he should drop out.