Republican pair pay price for careless words on abortion
Published 08/11/2012 | 05:00
THE Democratic Party strengthened its hold on the US Senate as liberal-minded voters punished two Republicans for controversial remarks on rape and abortion, and elected the first openly gay politician to the upper house of Congress.
Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana both lost after making observations that abortion should not be allowed in rape cases.
These two reverses -- and setbacks in votes elsewhere -- dashed Republican hopes of capturing the Senate, which has the power to impeach presidents, approve Supreme Court nominees and block legislation under its filibuster rules.
They also served to remind the party of the dangers of alienating female and moderate voters with views beyond the mainstream, even if they are common among their evangelical conservative supporters.
Mr Akin's campaign went into a tailspin after he remarked in August that women's bodies had ways of avoiding pregnancy in cases of what he called "legitimate rape".
Disowned by many Republican leaders, Mr Akin issued a semi-apology, saying he had "used words in the wrong way". But he ignored calls to step down.
Until then the congressman had been heavily favoured to defeat the sitting Democrat, Senator Claire McCaskill, who was struggling because of her links to President Barack Obama's stimulus bill and health care reforms.
Her campaign ran numerous TV ads featuring Republican women who had been victims of sexual assault and who said they were switching their support to Ms McCaskill.
She also targeted some of Mr Akin's other views as extreme, such as opposing federal school lunch subsidies and privatising the state pension.
In accepting defeat on Tuesday night, Mr Akin thanked God, "who makes no mistakes".
Meanwhile, in Indiana, Mr Mourdock was criticised after saying during a debate that pregnancy caused by rape, though a "horrible" thing, was "something that God intended to happen".
He was defeated by Joe Donnelly, a congressman who became the first Democrat to win a statewide election in Indiana for more than a decade.
A member of the party's conservative Blue Dog wing, he opposes abortion but supports its availability after rape.
Mr Mourdock had been expected to cruise to victory and his removal by grassroots activists will be regarded as an own goal by party leaders.
In Wisconsin, voters chose Tammy Baldwin to become the nation's first openly gay senator.
During a campaign that ended in a narrow victory over Tommy Thompson, a former governor, her sexuality was rarely discussed in the campaign.
"I didn't run to make history, I ran to make a difference," said Ms Baldwin (50).
But the result was still heralded as a major breakthrough for gay rights.
"Victory ensures the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community will have a voice in the Senate," said Jason Burns, of Equality Wisconsin.
Ms Baldwin, who has represented the state in the House of Representatives for 14 years, is expected to be replaced in the lower chamber by Mark Pocan, another openly gay politician. (© Daily Telegraph, London)