Within a week, Republican Rep. Todd Akin has done the impossible: Put himself behind Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill in the critical race for Missouri's seat in the U.S. Senate.
McCaskill is currently leading Akin in the most recent poll of the race, according to a polling average compiled by the Web site Real Clear Politics - 4.5 percentage points, or just outside the polling margin of error. A poll by the Republican-leaning Rasmussen Reports puts her up even higher, at 10 points.
Seeking re-election to the seat she first won in 2006, McCaskill had led the race throughout 2011. But that began to change this year, when the economy continued to sour and McCaskill dropped behind Akin after a highly contentious GOP Senate primary.
And that, in turn, changed after Akin's highly controversial remarks about rape.
On Sunday, the six-term congressman said that "legitimate rape" rarely results in a female pregnancy. He apologized for the comments a day later, but the comment had gone viral online, leading to a cascade of criticism from women's groups and other representing Democrats.
Akin refused calls from top GOP leaders to withdraw from the race, including from GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a personal phone call from vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus and five current and former Missouri GOP senators.
The race is crucial to political control of Congress. McCaskill has spent six years as a loyal foot soldier in the thinning and threatened ranks of the Democratic Party in the Senate, where the majority now holds only 53 seats but is seeing 23 of them up for re-election against GOP challengers.
Speaking to RTT News in March, McCaskill blamed the national media for her standing in the polls. But she has won against long odds before.
A former prosecutor who won election to the Missouri state House and later as state auditor, McCaskill ran an unsuccessful bid for the state's governorship in 2004. But she narrowly won one of the state's U.S. Senate seats in 2006.
"You've got a lot of people that anonymously want to hide behind these [PACs] and distort my record," McCaskill said. "But I'm confident that once we get on the air and we begin telling our story, we'll show the contrast. Missourians haven't seen the contrast yet. So when we can, we'll be fine."
She added, "The Republicans' idea of bringing our budget under control is cutting one-third of all the money we spend on Pell Grants, college education and veterans' benefits, while they give another six-figure tax break to millionaires. That's not the way to move forward. I want to bring down the debt, but I want to do it in a way that's more fair and balanced than that."
by RTT Staff Writer
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