Cowardice in Washington

Rick Tyler Senior Adviser to Rep. Todd Akin
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Any time a political consultant writes an op-ed, first find out who is signing his paycheck so you can have a better-informed opinion of his opinion.

Last week Curt Anderson called in these pages for Todd Akin to get out of the Missouri Senate race for comments Akin made in a television interview last month. If you go to the website of Anderson’s company, OnMessage, you can see that his clients include the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), whose chairmen have called on Akin to get out of the race and are increasingly angry he has decided to press on.

So Anderson is hardly a disinterested observer. Nor is he saying anything new. He’s simply expressing a new version of the same old Beltway cowardice.

Anderson makes three arguments for Akin to get out of the race. The first two are that Akin’s comments were based on debunked medical theories and that they were insensitive and hurtful.

Akin doesn’t disagree, which is why he immediately apologized for his remarks and asked Missouri voters to forgive him for his thoughtless comments.

Everyone makes verbal mistakes, Karl Rove being the most recent public figure learning that lesson.

The last argument Anderson makes is that “by staying in the race, [Akin]’s ensuring the re-election of a pro-choice Democrat, Senator Claire McCaskill.” Anderson says that makes the pro-life Akin a “hypocrite” because an Akin loss would re-elect McCaskill, who is pro-choice.

But how does Anderson know the outcome of an election that hasn’t taken place? The answer, of course, is that he doesn’t. He only thinks he knows.

Remember, it was the NRSC that begged and pleaded with Marco Rubio to get out of the Florida Senate race in 2010 and let Charlie Crist be the Republican nominee. They almost succeeded.

The NRSC and the establishment crew just knew — apparently like they know now — that if Marco Rubio were the Republican nominee, he would lose.

We all know how that turned out. Pro-life Marco Rubio is now a U.S. senator from Florida and just last week delivered a stirring and powerful address to the Republican National Convention.

And what happened to Charlie Crist, the man the Washington party bosses were so convinced was the perfect nominee? Well, Crist is addressing the Democratic National Convention this week in Charlotte to support President Obama’s re-election. Hey, Curt, in case you need reminding, that would be the pro-abortion Democratic National Convention gathering in Charlotte and that would be the pro-abortion President Obama that the NRSC’s one-time preferred GOP candidate is now actively supporting.

Look, I understand the fears driving the calculations that Curt Anderson and others like him are making about Todd Akin. Republicans and conservatives are united in our belief that Democrats are driving our country over a cliff and our conviction that they must be stopped. Anderson fears that Akin’s mistake will cost Republicans some seats, and so he wants a new candidate.

But Anderson makes two errors in his zero-sum analysis of Missouri voters in particular and American voters in general.

First, he totally discounts the fact that voters take into account a lot of information about candidates before they cast their votes. For example, a majority of Missouri voters may decide that Akin’s apology is sincere and that they accept it. Further, these voters may decide that they appreciate a sincere candidate who’s willing to come to them and admit mistakes, and that they would rather vote for such a candidate than vote for a sitting senator whose values they do not share and who has made numerous harmful policy mistakes for which she has not apologized.

Todd Akin made a six-second mistake for which he immediately apologized. Missouri voters are likely to vote for him over Claire McCaskill, who for six years has been making mistakes for which she has not apologized. In fact, she refuses to accept the settled science that a baby in the womb is a human being. But I digress.

Second, Anderson doesn’t factor in the much larger damage that the Republican Party would inflict on itself by abandoning a good and honorable man because of a mistake for which he immediately apologized. Voters can smell establishment cowardice, especially socially conservative voters. Such cowardice is toxic. It’s discouraging. And it has the potential to depress Republican turnout all across the country this November unless it is soon corrected.

Rick Tyler recently joined Republican candidate Todd Akin’s U.S. Senate campaign in Missouri as a senior adviser.