Not that long ago, Republicans Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin appeared headed for certain victory in their Senate races in Indiana and Missouri respectively.
Both were fierce conservatives, pro-lifers and favourites of the Tea Party. And both were taking on weak rivals that even the Democrats had written off. But then they made comments about sexual assault.
First Mr. Akin, who strongly opposes abortion, told a reporter in August that a woman’s body can prevent pregnancy after a “legitimate” sexual assault. Mr. Akin later apologized, but the comments sparked a national furor, prompting even Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney to call on him to quit the campaign.
The remark and other flubs by the six-term congressman dogged him for the remainder of the campaign, and, in the end, the result wasn’t close. On Tuesday, Mr. Akin lost soundly to Democrat incumbent Claire McCaskill.
In conceding Tuesday night, Mr. Akin asked supporters to thank God, “who makes no mistakes.”
Mr. Mourdock was supposed to have an easier path to the Senate. Last spring, he got the backing of the Tea Party and defeated 36-year Senate veteran Richard Lugar in the primary, taking the Republican nomination in a state that solidly backs the party. Then, during a candidates debate in October, Mr. Mourdock outlined his position against abortion in all circumstances except when a woman’s life was in danger. He added, though, that “even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something God intended to happen.”
Mr. Mourdock never recovered from the comment and lost to Democrat Joe Donnelly, who took a seat that had been held by the Republicans for more than 30 years. He offered few apologies Tuesday, making a tearful, defiant concession speech. He congratulated Mr. Donnelly but added that voters were choosing to be “supportive of that group in Washington that wants to constantly kick the can down the road” and “add to our debt.”
“As I will look back on this night,” he said. “I will look back knowing that I was attacked for standing on my principles.”
Some Republicans pointed to the results as lessons for their party. “It’s very important for the Republican Party to understand if we’re going to be a majority party beyond the House, we need to select candidates who can appeal to the electorate in all the states,” Michael Castle, a moderate Republican, told The New York Times.