Retiring Iowa Senator Tom Harkin has opened his yap and letting a tide of sexist crap flow out. And — as absurd as it might seem — this gaffe up might cost the Democratic party a Senate seat and hand it to an NRA darling who believes that IUD's should be outlawed.

Pretty much everybody with access to polling data and a computer has already opined that things aren't looking good for Democrats tomorrow. But there are a few races — among them the Iowa Senate contest between Bruce Braley and Joni "hog castrating" Ernst — that remain close enough that Democrats have held out hope they can pull out if, if their voting base cooperates.

Unfortunately for Braley (and for Democrats), a guy who isn't even running for office might have pissed off the wrong people at the wrong point in the news cycle, less than 48 hours from the election. According to the Christian Science Monitor, yesterday, audio was released of Harkin stumping for Braley earlier this month in about the dumbest possible way.

"You know, in this Senate race, I've been watching some of these ads," Harkin said, according to video of his remarks. "And there's sort of this sense that, 'Well, I hear so much about Joni Ernst. She's really attractive, and she sounds nice.'"

"Well I got to to thinking about that," he continued. "I don't care if she's as good looking as Taylor Swift or as nice as Mr. Rogers, but if she votes like [Minnesota Rep.] Michele Bachmann, she's wrong for the state of Iowa."

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The Ernst campaign immediately pounced, appearing on Fox News this morning to discuss how inappropriate Harkin's comments were and hammer down the GOP dog-whistle talking point that Democrats don't like "real" (code for conventionally attractive, effeminate, and fecund) women. Great work, Harkin. Real A+ stump speechin'.

Commenting on a female politician's looks in 2014 is some buttered garbage, but what's especially dismaying in watching this unfold is how the ebb and flow of the stupid outrage cycle continues to have a real impact on what voters see, what they pay attention to. News channels are airing footage of Harkin being offensive, and Ernst being offended at the expense of paying attention to the views that Ernst and Braley actually represent.

While offering patronizing commentary on her looks was wrong, Harkin was on the vaguest of right tracks in implying that Ernst has the views of Michele Bachmann; Ernst supports a Federal Personhood Amendment for fetuses and sponsored a failed personhood amendment for the state of Iowa when she was a state Senator, has remarked that she carries a gun around in case she has to defend herself against the Federal Government, and recently prompted Debbie Wasserman-Schultz to refer to her as an "onion of crazy." Claiming, as proponents of Personhood do, that using Plan B after a sexual assault is morally the same as giving birth to the baby and then blasting it off on a rocket to space is deeply, deeply offensive to both science and women.

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Harkin's flub is emblematic of exactly why the American government functions a lot less like a clueless collection of dads when women are involved, and men like Harkin need to go. But Harkin is going. And what's most offensive about this latest fracas isn't a dumb Taylor Swift comparison; it's what Joni Ernst would do if given the opportunity to push her agenda in Congress.