Akin's comments, women's perceptions helped McCaskill

Wednesday, November 7, 2012 | 7:32 p.m. CST; updated 11:33 a.m. CST, Thursday, November 8, 2012
These maps show the breakdown of votes by Missouri county for the 2006, 2010 and 2012 for U.S. Senate races.

*An earlier version of this story misidentified Roy Blunt's political affiliation. He is a Republican.

COLUMBIA — Despite a late burst of contributions and some diehard support, a decisive number of voters apparently couldn't forget Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" comments in the voting booth.

The controversy stems from a statement Akin made in an August interview with St. Louis television station KTVI. When asked about abortion in cases of rape, he said, "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

An exit poll by The Associated Press found that a majority of Missouri voters said U.S. Rep. Todd Akin's comment factored into their vote. Women were slightly more likely to admit to their consideration of the comment when making a voting decision.

The exit poll of 2,050 Missouri voters in a random sample of 35 precincts captured sentiment among several different groups and found greater support among women for Claire McCaskill in 2012 than in 2006. Women ages 18 to 44 overwhelmingly showed up for McCaskill, giving her an edge, according to the poll.

Akin maintained support among both the 65 and older crowd as well as white women overall; however, black women strongly favored McCaskill.

Voters under 29 also came out for McCaskill, according to the poll. 

"We (Republicans) are losing people because many have strayed from Constitutional roots, especially the younger group," said Laura Nauser, former Columbia City Council member and president of the Boone County Federated Republican Women.

Nauser said women she meets with strongly identify themselves as Republicans, so the Akin comments weren't enough to deter them from voting for him. Nauser supported his voting record and saw that as more important, despite his comments being "misguided and disappointing." 

Some Republican voters were so disturbed by the comments that they couldn't bring themselves to vote for Akin.

"Usually I'm a diehard Republican, but it seemed like he didn't care about the women's vote when he said that," said Kristen Sadowski, a junior business student at MU. "He didn't have the facts, and as a man he couldn't understand that situation."

Sadowski said her mom and three sisters all usually vote Republican, but they were swayed to vote for McCaskill in light of Akin's comments. 

"When he said that, it just pushed it to a new level that crossed the line for me," Sadowski said.

Women voting independently without a strong partisan affiliation may also have been swayed by Akin's statements. The Senatorial battle between McCaskill and Akin grossed a higher percentage of third party votes than any other race in Missouri, with 6.1 percent of the vote going to Libertarian candidate Jonathan Dine. Dine received 7.97 percent of the Boone County vote.

"I think people are getting frustrated with the path political parties have taken, so the independent vote is important. I think Republicans need to look at this in the future," Nauser said.

Missouri's bright red has definitely been dulled, at least in this Senate race.

In the 2010 U.S. Senate race, Republican* Roy Blunt received 54.2 percent of the vote and was elected. St. Louis City, St. Louis County and Kansas City were the only Democratic counties. 

The political landscape was more varied in McCaskill's first appointment in 2006, with nearly 25 counties voting in favor of incumbent Republican Sen. Jim Talent.

The 2012 election, however, has brought about a much more kaleidoscopic Missouri. McCaskill was declared the victor in areas not normally won by a Democratic candidate, from the Bootheel to northern farming counties.

"In Columbia, we're seeing some changes that are reversing Republican gains that were made during the time of the Blunt election," Nauser said. "Politics is funny, and there are so many factors."

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.

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