Remember Todd Akin?
He was the Republican candidate for the Senate seat in Missouri back in 2012. He became a national rallying cry for pro-abortion Democrats. Every Republican candidate in the country was badgered by the mainstream media to denounce what Akin said about rape. Of course, the reverse never happens for Democrats. If a Democrat running for office makes a huge gaffe, the media won’t badger every Democrat in the country. There won’t be endless stories about how this politician accidentally said when they all secretly believe. But they did that for Akin.
But before Akin made that major gaffe, there was a close three-way race to decide which Republican would win be the Senate nominee. Establishment Republicans liked John Brunner. Sarah Palin tried to rally Tea Party voters to support Sarah Steelman. Evangelical Christians like Tony Perkins supported Todd Akin.
The Democrat incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill was very vulnerable, and thought likely to lose reelection. But she didn’t give up without a fight. In fact, she found her inner Richard Nixon.
Most political insiders speculated that McCaskill wanted Todd Akin to be the Republican nominee because he would be a more vulnerable general election candidate precisely because he might put off independent voters. Having the Republican primary voters nominate Todd Akin would be Claire McCaskill’s best chance to win again.
And Republican pollsters warned conservative voters about this. But because there is no longer any trust with the Establishment, these warning were not heeded. (Note: I fully recognize that the Establishment’s own mistakes and betrayals are the reason why they have earned a lot of distrust.)
So what happened? Well, Claire McCaskill spent $1.5 million running “attack” ads against Todd Akin that seemed specifically designed to help him win the primary.
Here’s a TV version of the ad:
Doesn’t that ad look specifically designed to get conservatives to rally behind Todd Akin?
Well, in an article for Politico, McCaskill admitted that’s exactly what the ad campaign was designed to do:.
Using the guidance of my campaign staff and consultants, we came up with the idea for a “dog whistle” ad, a message that was pitched in such a way that it would be heard only by a certain group of people. I told my team we needed to put Akin’s uber-conservative bona fides in an ad—and then, using reverse psychology, tell voters not to vote for him. And we needed to run the hell out of that ad….
If we were going to spend that kind of money on ads for Akin, I wanted to get him nominated and start disqualifying him with independent voters at the same time. By that prescription, our ad would have to include Akin’s statement that Obama was a “menace to civilization” and that Akin had said of himself that he was “too conservative” for Missouri. This presentation made it look as though I was trying to disqualify him, though, as we know, when you call someone “too conservative” in a Republican primary, that’s giving him or her a badge of honor. At the end of the ad, my voice was heard saying, “I’m Claire McCaskill, and I approve this message.”
It worked like a charm. Akin’s numbers started climbing. And he was on his way to winning the Republican Senate primary. As McCaskill noted: “A man wrote a letter to the editor of the Springfield News Leader: ‘I think it’s time for someone who may be too conservative. Thank you, Senator McCaskill, for running that ad. You have helped me determine that my vote needs to go to Akin.'”
Akin won the primary. A few weeks later, he made his comment about “legitimate rape.” When his poll numbers tanked, he refused to step aside and let another candidate run. On Election Day he got 39% of the vote. Could anyone have guessed that Akin would have made such a comment? Probably not. But even before his gaffe, he had little money to run a statewide campaign, and McCaskill’s war chest was loaded for bear.
None of that mattered to conservative voters in Missouri in 2012. They were simply not interested in selecting the most conservative candidate capable of winning the election. They just wanted the most conservative candidate period. The other two Republican candidates were almost a lock to win the seat, but nominating Todd Akin put the seat in serious jeopardy.
The warnings were ignored and Claire McCaskill won another six years in the United States Senate.
* P.S. When I said “Nixon” I meant it. In the same article for Politico, Claire McCaskill publicly admits she coordinated with the Todd Akin campaign by encouraging them to put an ad featuring Mike Huckabee back on the air because it would help him win support. This would seem to be a direct violation of federal election laws prohibiting coordination.