By Lisa Mascaro, Tribune Washington Bureau –
ROLLA, Mo. — Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin compared the recent debate performance of Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill to that of a “wildcat,” saying she is worried about her re-election chances.
McCaskill came on strong during their first debate last week, criticizing Rep. Akin’s recent suggestion that pregnancy “rarely” results from “legitimate rape” because women’s bodies have a way of shutting down conception. McCaskill said his views were extreme and out of the mainstream.
“The first two minutes, wow, it’s like somebody let a wildcat out of the cage,” Akin told a small group of supporters and activists as his statewide bus tour stopped Wednesday evening in Rolla, a rural college town between St. Louis and Springfield. “She was just furious and attacking in every different direction, which was a little bit of a surprise to us.”
Akin suggested that McCaskill took an aggressive approach in her opening segment because she is worried about her chances of being re-elected.
The McCaskill campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On Thursday, Akin suggested McCaskill had acted more “ladylike” when she first ran for the Senate six years ago, according to the Kansas City Star.
The chairwoman of Democratic campaign efforts, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, said Akin’s comments about McCaskill reflected the Republican Party’s approach toward women.
“Todd Akin is at it again with another comment that’s demeaning to women and offensive to all,” Murray said in a statement. “What’s truly astonishing is that the national party embraced Todd Akin yesterday and now refuses to repudiate his statement. Unless the national party condemns Todd Akin and his latest comments, every Republican candidate in the country will be held accountable for their support of Akin’s beliefs and sentiments.”
Earlier Thursday, Sen. Jim DeMint’s political action committee pledged as much as $290,000 to Akin’s campaign.
Saying “the grass roots must rise up” against Republican Party leaders who have shunned Akin, the South Carolina conservative is positioning himself as a kingmaker in Akin’s effort to defeat McCaskill.
Akin’s candidacy was supported this week by Rick Santorum, who plans to campaign for him, and Newt Gingrich, who has predicted GOP donors will return to the six-term congressman’s campaign.
Top Republicans, including Mitt Romney, the party’s presidential nominee, have said Akin should abandon his candidacy. With female voters favoring President Barack Obama, the GOP is struggling to close the gender gap.
But as the party’s chances dim for picking up the seats needed to win majority control of the Senate, top conservative Republicans have announced they will back Akin with endorsements and financial support.