In the lead-up to the 2012 midterm elections, all the talk was about the GOP taking control of the Senate.
Then, as often happens with the Grand Old Party, they figured out a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Todd Akin happened. Then Richard Mourdock did. One-two punch. Flat on the mat 8, 9, 10. Done.
Mr. Akin kicked things off in August by saying two words that have never been uttered side by side in the history of the English language: “legitimate rape.” No need to explain, Todd. Stick a fork in it, you’re done.
Mr. Mourdock was cruising along, knocking off six-term Sen. Richard Lugar in what looked like a sure win for Republicans in Indiana. Then he said this at an October debate: “Even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
That didn’t go over well, especially because Democrats, based on the Akin words, already were playing the old “war against women” saw.
Republicans ruminated, but in the end figured out how to solve the problem: Stop talking about rape and abortion.
“When we can get baited by reporters to talk about something that’s a personal opinion, it really is not something we’d be debating at the federal level. We haven’t even decided at the federal level the personhood issue of the child,” Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina said after the 2012 defeat. “To go from there to exceptions to rape is just not something we need to be discussing. It’s basically opinion.”
So, along comes 2014. This time, as usual, some truly awful candidates ran for Republican nominations. Bob Marshall, 70, sought the nomination in Virginia (he’s against the pill and IUDs — “They prevent implantation, which is abortion” — and supported the ultra-invasive transvaginal ultrasound for all women seeking abortions). He won just 7 percent of the vote.
Yes, it seems Republicans have finally figured out that with the world imploding, the U.S. economy flagging and the current Democratic majority looking to grant amnesty to 12 million illegal aliens, perhaps there are better things to discuss than abortion and rape.
In an odd twist this year, it’s the Democrats who are saddled with a slew of weak, inexperienced and wandering candidates who keep putting their feet in their mouths.
Alison Lundergan Grimes, running in Kentucky, most recently suggested that Israel’s missile defense system, the Iron Dome, has something to do with ferreting out Palestinian tunnels. “The Iron Dome has been a big reason why Israel has been able to withstand the terrorists that have tried to tunnel their way in.” Whoops.
She also has been ducking the press as she seeks to knock off Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, hoping sympathetic liberals in the media will give her a pass. But when she opens her mouth, no one knows what she’s talking about. Wrote reporter Sam Youngman: “On the major issues, Grimes has either been missing or firing off press releases that require both multiple readings and multiple head scratches.”
Michelle Nunn in Georgia isn’t much better. Through a colossal screw-up, her entire campaign plan was leaked to the National Review. As The Marietta Daily Journal reported, “The bombshell memo frets Nunn can come across as a ‘lightweight,’ ‘too liberal’ and not a ‘real Georgian.’”
Whoopsy daisy. The plan also calls for her to feature images of her and her family “in rural settings with rural-oriented imagery,” to blanch the notion that the Atlanta-based pol is a city slicker. Wait, that’s a plan?!
Meanwhile, Gary Peters in Michigan is flagging, stuck at 43 percent. Liberal-lover Dave Weigel wrote earlier this year that “Democrats are putting this pressure on [Republican candidate Terri Lynn] Land because their candidate is still struggling to reclaim the usual Democratic advantage.”
And Sen. John Walsh in Montana is struggling to make headway for Democrats. Wait, it’s much worse than that. The New York Times reported that Mr. Walsh plagiarized parts of articles in a 2007 paper he wrote to “earn” his master’s degree at the U.S. Army War College.
Two Montana newspapers, the Missoulian and the Billings Gazette, are calling on the incumbent to bail. Mr. Walsh says he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (which apparently makes you prone to plagiarizing).
“Haunted by a serious lapse in academic honesty, Walsh is finished as a U.S. Senate candidate. But he should work even more diligently to finish the Senate job he already accepted,” the Gazette said.
Haunted indeed. And perhaps, after the November elections this time around, the Republicans won’t be haunted anymore.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @josephcurl.