Jack Kelly: 88 minutes of fame

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You may have heard by now that the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Missouri said something remarkably stupid about rape, because television news has devoted a lot of air time to it.

Asked by a reporter what he thinks should be done about pregnancies that result from rape, Rep. Todd Akin responded: "From what I understand from doctors, that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

Democrats spent a lot of money to help Mr. Akin win the Republican primary Aug. 7, because they regarded him as the weakest of the three GOP contenders. It was a good investment.

The remark triggered a firestorm of criticism, mostly from the right.

Despite this, Democrats think Mr. Akin has handed them a club with which to beat Republicans. His statement reflects the real views of the GOP, they say -- ignoring the fact that virtually every prominent Republican from Mitt Romney on down has denounced it and called upon Mr. Akin to quit the race.

"Not just Rep. Akin," Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, tweeted. "GOP agenda will turn back the clock on women's rights."

Democrats plan to make that argument the theme of their convention in Charlotte Sept. 3-6. Ms. Warren will be a featured speaker, as will Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., actress Eva Longoria, the presidents of two pro-abortion groups, and Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University law student.

In the three days following Mr. Akin's remark, ABC, CBS and NBC devoted an astounding 88 minutes on their morning and evening news shows to it. A CNN panel of 31 journalists said it will hurt Republicans in the fall.

Democrats and their journalist friends need to get out of the liberal bubble now and then. Their overkill on Mr. Akin is certain to backfire.

The lesser problem is that abortion isn't a winning issue. In a Gallup poll in May, only 38 percent of men and 44 percent of women said they were "pro-choice." Forty-six percent of women and 53 percent of men said they were "pro-life."

The larger problem is that while Americans are deeply worried about the economy, Democrats will be talking about abortion, which barely registers when pollsters ask voters what they're concerned about.

"If undecided viewers tune into the Democratic convention and hear all about abortion, and tune into the Republican convention and hear all about the economy, Romney will win in a landslide," said attorney John Hinderaker, who blogs at Power Line.

Those who tune in to the Democratic National Convention will be hearing about abortion from women most have never heard of. Only Ms. Longoria has appeal beyond the liberal base. Of the others, Ms. Warren is the most prominent. But in the most liberal state in the union, she's trailing by 5 percentage points, according to a poll this week.

There are two other reasons why Democratic plans to make abortion the focal point of their convention will backfire. Democrats will profess outrage over a remark about rape. Then they will fete former President Bill Clinton, who's been accused of rape. This stretches the boundaries of the term "hypocrisy."

The other problem with making Mr. Akin the focal point of their convention is that he may depart the scene before it begins. He's resisted so far the calls to step down, but as his poll numbers plunge and his fundraising dries up, reality may penetrate even his thick skull. If it does before Sept. 3, then in addition to looking irrelevan and hypocritical, Democrats will look really silly. jackkelly

This column originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To subscribe, go to http://old.post-gazette.com/trypress/ Jack Kelly is a columnist for The Press and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. jkelly@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1476.


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