Mo. Senate Republican's 'legitimate rape' line embarrasses GOP

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Columnists

A Missouri GOP Senate candidate's reference to "legitimate rape" has not only revived hopes that incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill will survive the challenge but is drawing the ire of Republicans including the woman he beat in the recent Show Me State primary.

Sarah Steelman, who lost to Tea Party-backed Rep. Todd Akin despite support from Sarah Palin, just tweeted: "Todd Akin's remarks about 'legitimate rape' were inexcusable, insulting and embarrassing to the GOP."

Her comment followed a statement from the Romney-Ryan campaign condemning Akin and his opposition to abortion in the case of rape.

In a TV interview, he flopped at explaining rape and pregnancy. "It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare," he said of pregnancies from rape. "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 of the rapist, and not attacking the child."

He later said he "misspoke."

But the damage may have been done. Up until the comment on Fox's St. Louis station, KTVI, McCaskill was considered unlikely to keep her Senate seat.

GOP political operatives said it is worse than when former Sen. George Allen called a staffer from campaign opponent "Macaca," which was considered a racial slur that cost him his seat.

"This is way worse," said a Republican source. "Way more frightening," added a Democratic source.

What's more, it was quickly picked up by Democrats eager to paint Republicans as Neanderthals eager to outlaw abortion.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee, early Monday sent out a note that said, "Akin's choice of words isn't the real issue here. The real issue is a Republican party -- led by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan -- whose policies on women and their health are dangerously wrong."