- The Washington Times - Monday, July 28, 2014

Desperately looking to fire up their base, Democrats are on the hunt for the next Todd Akin — a loose-talking Republican candidate who can be cast as being so far outside of the mainstream that they tarnish the GOP’s image and dampen its chances of taking over the Senate.

“We know this is the Democrats’ playbook and we know that the media will play along with it,” said Kevin Madden, a GOP strategist who worked on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. “It’s important that Republican candidates don’t allow their races to become some proxy fight over something another candidate said in some other state or district. Draw the distinction between their views and your own.”

The strategy worked wonders two years ago when the remarks of Mr. Akin and Indiana U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock not only squashed their dreams of being elected to the Senate, but also cast a pall over the party and made it harder for the Romney camp to stay on message.

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“Akin was a distraction in the sense that the national press was focused on that controversy while we were looking to methodically drive an economic message in the closing days,” Mr. Madden said.

The outlook, though, for Democrats heading into the November election is grimmer than it was in 2012.

For starters, midterm elections are different animals than presidential elections — they generally have lower turnout and the electorate tends to be older, whiter and more conservative.

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The blog FiveThirtyEight has said the GOP is a slight favorite to obtain the net six-seat gain they need to win the Senate. With many of the key races in traditionally red states. The University of Virginia’s Center for Politics predicts Republicans will pick up somewhere between four and eight seats in the upper chamber.

History also is on the GOP’s side: Since 1950, the opposition party in a president’s second term has picked up an average of six seats in a midterm election, according to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

In other words, Democrats could use another Akin, political observers say.

“They are looking for something to really try to jolt their base — to try to get female voters, young voters, minority voters energized and so far nothing is working,” said David Johnson, a GOP strategist.

Democrats basically agree.

“There is no denying that I would feel a bit more confident of our chances of keeping the Senate if we had more candidates running on the fringe of the party like we saw in years past with Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock,” said Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist. “I can only assume that Republicans feel pretty good about their chances in November right now, so the last thing they want to see are candidates spouting right-wing rhetoric that turns off women and independents.”

Shortly after winning his party’s nomination for the Senate in August 2012, Mr. Akin said in a radio interview that women’s bodies could somehow block an unwanted pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape.”

A a couple months later a similar story played out in Indiana when GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, who had knocked off Sen. Dick Lugar in the primary, said that he was against abortions in the case of rape because “it is something that God intended to happen.”

Democrats pounced on the remarks, touting them as proof that the Republican party was out of step with voters, and went on to win the races in Missouri and Indiana — thanks to strong support from unmarried women, young voters and minorities.

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