The Problem With Saying, “We Don’t Want Any More Candidates Like Todd Akin”


Karl Rove and his buddies at American Crossroads are gearing up to defeat conservative candidates in the GOP primaries, but of course, they don’t want to admit the truth. So Karl Rove went on Sean Hannity‘s show last night to spin what they’re doing.

Karl Rove appeared on Sean Hannity‘s show tonight to defend himself against conservative criticisms of his new PAC intended to help moderate Republicans against tea party challengers in primary races. Radio host Mark Levin went so far as to accuse Rove of stabbing conservatives in the back. Rove made it clear he still wants conservative candidates to back, he just wants ones who can actually win races.

Hannity first explained the main goal of Conservative Victory Project: keeping more Todd Akins from becoming nominees for safe seats and ultimately losing general elections. Rove quickly clarified that he is not going to be in the business of defending incumbents, but merely making sure the Republican party nominates candidates who can actually win races. He also defended his previous support of Tea Party candidates in 2010 and 2012.

Hannity brought up the criticism that sometimes the Republican party ends up with establishment Republicans who no one is happy with. Rove insisted he just wants “the most conservative candidate who can win,” not just the incumbent candidate. He insisted that his group would have, for example, backed Marco Rubio in 2010. Hannity explained his main concern is that he doesn’t want anyone within the Republican party doing anything to divide it.

Rove stuck by his message, saying that the Republican party needs to do better than Todd Akin if it wants to retake the Senate.

First of all, it is true that savvy political observers can pick up on differences in electability amongst candidates. However, saying “opinions vary” doesn’t quite cover it; even smart political professionals often have widely divergent opinions about which candidates are more electable and even after all is said and done, nothing is really settled.

Just to give you one example, Mitt Romney was primarily sold to conservatives in 2012 as the “electable” candidate. Yet personally, I thought there was absolutely nothing in his record that indicated he was particularly electable and I also believed Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry — at a minimum — were all more electable than Mitt Romney. So, Mitt Romney lost. Does that mean I was right? I think so, but I doubt if you’d find many of Mitt’s hardcore supporters who’d agree.

Point being: Todd Akin ain’t a Todd Akin until after Todd Akin blows the election and everyone agrees he’s a Todd Akin.

Yes, it was fair to say that Todd Akin was the weakest candidate running on the GOP side. On the other hand, had he not made that stupid gaffe, chances are he would have beaten Claire McCaskill handily. Additionally, had Akin not made that stupid comment, Richard Mourdock’s dumb comment probably wouldn’t have gotten much traction. So, if Mourdock either would have kept his mouth shut or Akin wouldn’t have mouthed off, he would have likely won, too. Then there’s Sharron Angle. She was probably the weakest candidate in the GOP field (Arguably, Danny Tarkanian may have been weaker), but that doesn’t necessarily mean that any of the other candidates would have won either. Keep in mind that Angle actually looked really strong in the run-up to the election. Here’s what I wrote about the race on the day before the election.

State: Nevada
Seat Currently Held By: Harry Reid (D)
Competitors: Sharron Angle (R) Vs. Harry Reid (D)
Latest poll: Sharron Angle 49% vs. Harry Reid 45% – PPP
Ranking: Leaning Republican (75% chance of Republican pick-up)
Analysis: Angle has been ahead in every poll during the final three weeks. Moreover, she has been flirting with the 50% mark while Reid has been sitting in the mid-forties. Given that the voters in Nevada already know Reid very well, you have to think the undecided voters will break towards Angle. So, at the moment, looks like she’s in really good shape.

People now talk about Sharron Angle like she was a dead dog loser from the beginning, but the fact of the matter is that even on the day before the election, her polling looked really good.

As a matter of fact, the only controversial candidate in the last few cycles who probably never had a chance from Day 1 was Christine O’Donnell. Mike Castle would have turned that race into a gimmie for the GOP while choosing Christine O’Donnell turned the race into a gimmie for the Dems. Beyond that race and the Todd Akin disaster, there’s a not a single race where we can definitively say the candidate made all the difference — and in Akin’s case, he even had the opportunity to drop out, but was too arrogant to take it. So, if he wasn’t such a jackass, we could have saved that seat, too. With that in mind, how much of a problem is this really?

Furthermore, it’s worth keeping in mind that the GOP hierarchy hasn’t always had such good judgment about which candidates were electable. Rove can claim that he would have supported Rubio over Crist, but that’s pretty easy to say after the fact. When Crist and Rubio were actually going toe to toe, the NRSC originally backed Charlie Crist. The GOP higher ups have also preferred Trey Greyson to Rand Paul, David Dewhurst to Ted Cruz and Arlen Specter to Pat Toomey. Their argument is always electability and guess what?

They get it wrong a lot.

Yet, if Paul, Cruz, Rubio and Toomey had lost their primaries, what would the GOP establishment be saying today? Probably something like, “Whew, we dodged a bullet because those guys were all ‘Todd Akins.'”

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