Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill probably helped Rep. Todd Akin achieve greater political prominence when she decided that it'd be better to face a six-term congressman in the looming Missouri Senate race than an opponent who didn't have a previous voting record to criticize. With tea-party fervor strong in her home state, McCaskill ran an ad that called Akin "Missouri's true conservative," thereby helping the now-infamous beat out former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman and businessman John Brunner for the Republican nomination to try and wrest McCaskill's Senate seat away from her.
After Akin provided a televised demonstration of just how many days of biology class he's cut over the course of his life, rumors are floating around that he may very well abandon his Senate bid. In a rational political landscape, Akin's ruminations on the nature of "legitimate rape" would almost certainly hammer all the metaphorical nails into the coffin of his political career, and though McCaskill's challenge of holding onto her seat has seemingly become pretty easy, it was only a few weeks ago, according to the Los Angeles Times' coverage of Missouri's Senate primary, that McCaskill's position seemed far more tenuous.
When it was reported that Akin would narrowly secure the state GOP's support, he was entering the Senate contest against McCaskill with a slight advantage, as a St. Louis Post Dispatch-Mason Dixon poll had him beating McCaskill 49 percent to 44 percent. McCaskill was considered the most vulnerable Democratic Senate incumbent, and would have been facing a socially conservative GOP challenger in a state that is starting to list more to the right. Once it became clear that Akin would emerge from the embers of the Republican primary, McCaskill's campaign fired off a salvo email identifying Akin as "one of the most fringe, conservative congressmen in the United States," a statement that Sunday proved almost prophetic.
Who knows, though, what would have happened if Akin hadn't blundered onto the national political scene, igniting an internet forest fire of outrage for suggesting that a woman's bodies could actually tell the difference between a "legitimate" rape and whatever other concepts of rape the congressman has rattling around in his hollow skull, and become pregnant accordingly? Maybe he'd have tiptoed right into office, smuggling his most extreme and ignorant worldviews into the most powerful legislative body in the country. It really makes you think that we can't always count on social conservatives to disqualify themselves, and that someone needs to get to work right quick on a time machine.