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The Akin and the damage done

<p>&lt;p&gt;Todd Akin, for now the Republicans&amp;#039; U.S.&lt;/p&gt;</p>
Paul Ryan and Todd Akin have routinely been side by side.
Paul Ryan and Todd Akin have routinely been side by side.

Todd Akin, for now the Republicans' U.S. Senate candidate in Missouri, came up with a new tack last night, arguing that the "liberal media is trying to make me drop out" of the race. He apparently wasn't kidding.

Putting aside the fact that the left doesn't want him to quit, what's especially amusing about Akin's sense of victimization is that he seems to think the "liberal media" includes the Republican Party, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, and Sean Hannity. Even among Akin backers, this one's going to be a tough sell.

The larger issue now, however, is appreciating the scope of the damage Akin is causing. All of a sudden, women's health, reproductive rights, and the Republican "war on women" are at the center of the political world's focus, and people are starting to notice that Akin's right-wing views on abortion are "largely indistinguishable" from most of his GOP colleagues.

That agenda -- largely eclipsed for two years by a protracted fiscal crisis and the fight over how to manage the federal deficit -- has wedged its way, for now at least, to the center of the 2012 campaign. It is focusing attention on an issue that helped earn Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, a reputation as a flip-flopper, threatening the Republican quest for control of the Senate, and leaving Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, Mr. Romney's vice-presidential pick, in the uncomfortable position of distinguishing himself from Mr. Akin, with whom he has often concurred.It is an agenda that has enjoyed the support of House leaders, including Speaker John A. Boehner and Representative Eric Cantor, the majority leader, who has called anti-abortion measures "obviously very important in terms of the priorities we set out initially in our pledge to America." It became inextricably linked to the near-shutdown of the federal government last year when an agreement to keep the government open was reached only after it was linked to a measure restricting abortion in the District of Columbia.

As Rachel explained last night, even the Republican Party platform, generally overlooked and ignored, is suddenly quite relevant given that its provisions on reproductive rights are in sync with Akin's far-right views -- most notably on rape victims impregnated by their attacker.

Indeed, Akin talked to NBC's "Today" show this morning, noting that Paul Ryan personally urged him to withdraw, which only serves as a reminder that Ryan and Akin co-sponsored legislation to redefine "rape" for the purposes of abortion and a federal "Personhood" measure that would ban abortion, some contraceptives, and in-vitro fertilization.

Akin has changed the trajectory of the 2012 race, and to put it mildly, this isn't what the party had in mind.