by Max Brantley
Some Republicans conceded that they had worked to marginalize Representative Todd Akin after he suggested during his failed bid for a Senate seat in Missouri that a woman’s body was able to prevent a pregnancy resulting from “legitimate rape.” They did so because they were worried that their party was increasingly seen among voters as preoccupied with issues like the one sponsored by Republicans in Virginia that would have required women to undergo vaginal sonograms before they could have an abortion.
“We have a significant problem with female voters,” said John Weaver, a senior Republican strategist. Mr. Akin’s comments, Mr. Weaver said, “did not seem like outliers.” Nor, he added, were those made by Richard E. Mourdock, whose Senate campaign in Indiana was derailed in spectacular fashion after he said in a debate that it was “God’s will” when a pregnancy resulted from rape.
“They did not seem foreign to our party,” Mr. Weaver said. “They seemed representative of our party.”
In Arkansas, of course, Republicans hold to the belief that men know what's best for women, whether the subject be universal health care, birth control pills or access to abortion in the earliest stages of pregnancy. And there's some evidence voters are responsive to the notion. Rep. Linda Tyler's guidance of a legislative committee that defeated punitive anti-abortion legislation aimed at eliminating the legal medical procedure in Arkansas contributed to her defeat by an evangelical preacher, Jason Rapert. Rapert will be back with his vaginal probe sonogram bill in 2013. This time, at least, its cold invasiveness will get the attention it deserves.
All political issues aren't focused on reproduction.
Women were not just turned off by perceived threats to their reproductive rights, Mr. Weaver said, but also by the tough tone that the party has taken toward immigrants and the poor.
“We have to reach across a whole host of policy reforms,” he said. “For instance, immigration may not seem like a women’s issue, but as Ronald Reagan and Bush 41 and Bush 43 for a while seemed to understand is that when you reach out to one group it helps you across the board. We need to be changing our tone, to be standing for something and not just against things. We can be for health care and for equal pay for equal work without undermining our conservative principles.”