The Candidates Who Could Cost the GOP the Senate

Todd Akin isn't the only candidate who could cost the Republicans the Senate.

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Todd Akin isn't the only candidate who could cost the Republicans the Senate. His "legitimate rape" comments are the focus of a furious effort to push him into resigning to allow a more electable Republican to take his place in Missouri and save the party its hopes of winning a majority in both Houses of Congress. Akin's not the only one who's put that cause in jeopardy, though. "How many Senate seats have Rs thrown away in recent cycles? At least 2 in '06, 3 in '10. Any in '08?" The National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru tweeted Monday afternoon, after Akin apologized on the radio but before CNN's Piers Morgan mocked him for being a no-show. Republicans aren't able to coast on their party brand this year, making it much more important to have good candidates, Politico's Alexander Burns notes Tuesday. "While Democrats started out back on their heels, defending 23 seats to the GOP’s 10, the unexpected weakness of several Republican candidates has left Republicans far short of the easy takeover that some once anticipated," he writes.

But while several candidates have made dumb mistakes, it's worth noting that they aren't n00bs who've never run for office before. And they're not all that far from the positions of the Republican Party. Despite all the Republicans denouncing Akin's rape comments, the party's platform this year opposes all abortions—even in the case of rape. That was the position Akin so poorly articulated. In fact, part of the conservative anger with Akin is not over what he said, but how he said it. Here's a guide to three of the Senate candidates who've been choosing their words—not their positions—poorly.

Candidate: Todd Akin, running for Senate in Missouri against incumbent Claire McCaskill.

Résumé:  While Republicans seem quite shocked at Akin's comments, they shouldn't be so surprised, since he's been hanging around Washington for more than a decade. Before his six terms as a congressman, Akin served 12 years in the Missouri House. He's not some little known political novice.

Dumb Thing: "It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy after rape is] really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

Poll Numbers: A SurveyUSA poll found that 54 percent of Missourians think Akin should drop out. Yet Akin is ahead of McCaskill 44 percent to 43 percent, Public Policy Polling finds. PPP leans left, and the National Review's Jim Geraghty speculates that the pollster skewed its sample to overrepresent Republicans to show Akin stronger than he actually is and persuade him from dropping out. But Akin was performing better against McCaskill in earlier polls -- a SurveyUSA poll from earlier this month found him leading by more, 51 percent to McCaskill's 40 percent.

Candidate: Rick Berg, running for an open Senate seat in North Dakota against former state attorney general Heidi Heitkamp.

Résumé: Berg has served one term in Congress, but before that, he was a state legislator for 15 years.

Dumb Thing: Berg is not quite sure how to run against a woman. The campaign ran an ad with four elderly women sitting in a diner and gossipping about how they just couldn't trust Heitkamp, perhaps because the campaign thought criticism of a woman would be more palatable coming from women? But the ad attracted a ton of YouTube commenters, who said the ad was like an old folks' Mean Girls. After The Huffington Post wrote about the jokes, the campaign deleted the old comments and blocked new ones. Then Berg ran an ad touting his support of a former YWCA chairwoman, which the YWCA asked him to take down, because it could be taken as an endorsement. The ad was taken off YouTube last week. And a Crossroads GPS ad was taken down because of a false claim against Heitkamp involving federal funding for planes. Meanwhile, Heitkamp has been noted for having a warm personality, and maybe more importantly, she's figured out a way to sell her support for Obamacare by saying it contains an important amendment involving Medicare funding for North Dakota doctors. Politico declared she won both June and July.

Poll Numbers: Despite North Dakota being a Republican state, Berg is averaging only a 5 point lead. That doesn't average in a Democratic internal poll showing Heitkamp up by 6 points in late July. A Mason-Dixon poll in June showed Heitkamp ahead by a single point.

Candidate: Richard Mourdock, running for an open Senate seat in Indiana against Rep. Joe Donnelly.

Résumé: Mourdock was elected state treasurer in 2006.

Dumb Thing: Mourdock's proud conservatism was great for winning the Republican primary, but it might not be so great for winning the general election. He said in May that he wanted to build Republican majorities so that "bipartisanship becomes having Democrats come our way." He's now being attacked by Democratic groups for saying Paul Ryan's plan to create vouchers for Medicare doesn't go far enough. Donnelly, meanwhile, is promising "bipartisan, common-sense leadership."

Poll Numbers: A poll by the right-leaning Rasmussen found Mourdock with just a 2-point lead in the Republican state in early August. A more recent Democratic poll put Donnelly up by 2 points.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.