Tuesday, August 21, 2012

#MOSen: Brad Lager Should Replace Todd Akin for US Senate

Brad Lager
Brad Lager
By now you've probably heard about Todd Akin's (R-MO) embarrassing gaffe on the Jaco Report over the weekend. Here's what Akin said:
It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.
A lot has been written about Akin's inexcusable turn of phrase: "legitimate rape." To his credit, Akin's apologized for that; however, his problems go much deeper than that phrase. There are two fundamental problems facing Akin right now. First, he apparently does not understand the science of human reproduction and, second, while he won the three-way primary, 64% of Republican primary voters didn't vote for him.

My policy preferences on abortion are pretty close to Todd Akin's. Because I believe that embryos are not part of their mother, but rather created human beings, I do not support policy carve outs to allow abortion for rape and incest. That said, I do not understand where Akin's comment about the female body shutting down comes from. If you're a conservative and can show me an article in Cell, Science, or Nature--the top three biology journals--that supports that, then maybe I'll reconsider. Until that time, Akin's view about human reproduction appears to me to be faux-scientific babbling. If you're a leftist or even a moderate, Akin might come off as peddling a faux-scientific myth to advance or justify his Christian policy preferences. This horribly undermines his credibility which should be based on facts and truth.

Akin's other problem is that nearly two-thirds of Missouri's Republican primary voters did not vote for him (I voted for Hector Maldonado). That means, that at every Akin misstep conservatives will swarm since his backing is weak.

Akin has until 5PM Tuesday (8/21) to decide whether or not he will end his bid for US Senate. That along with Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Charles Krauthammer, the RNC Chairman, his own advisers, and possibly even Mitt Romney calling for him to get out has created some urgency. That urgency has led to speculation about candidates to replace him.

The list of names to replace Akin is long; however, I will only focus on a few. First, some ground rules. Akin could very well stay in the race. He's said that he'll do so and it is his decision to make. I do not think that any of the candidates that Akin beat for the Missouri Republican nomination for US Senate are good alternatives. I think a replacement needs both party backing and grassroots support. Even though I live in St. Louis, the fact that the Republican ticket in Missouri is basically a who's who of St. Louis Republicans is a problem for me. I think a party ticket should better represent the state.

Gateway Pundit and others have thrown Ann Wagner's name into the ring. I was looking forward to ignoring her race in MO-02.... I guess because she's running for Congress they think she can step up to run for Senate, but if that's the case, then why not tap Vicky Hartzler? Unlike Wagner, Hartzler's actually been elected to public office so she's better prepared for a race on the national stage. The real risk in advancing a woman--especially one as unqualified as Ann Wagner--is that it will be seen as pandering to women. The national press will rightly criticize the Missouri GOP for choosing a candidate to fill a gender quota, though I do not think that criticism works in Hartzler's case because of her Congressional experience.

Unfortunately, the Missouri Republican party does not have many women with the state-wide name recognition and the electoral experience to run for US Senate. There are some great women in the General Assembly who will hopefully change that in the coming years, leaders like: Luann Ridgeway, Jane Cunningham, Cloria Brown, Marsha Haefner, Melissa Leach, and several others who's names escape me at the moment. With the electoral drought for Republicans at the top of the ticket for the past few cycles, only Sarah Steelman had that potential in this cycle and she's effectively been eliminated finishing third behind Akin and Brunner.

And electoral success is important. The United States was founded on the idea that those in power derive their authority from those they govern. With that in mind, I think Brad Lager, who hails from Northwest Missouri, is the best replacement for Todd Akin. Lager lost a close race against Peter Kinder for the Republican nomination for Lt. Governor, but in that lose, Lager garnered more votes than any of the Republican candidates for US Senate. The fact that he garnered more Republican votes than any other Republican candidate on August 7th who did not win their election gives him a sort of electoral legitimacy that others lack. If Todd Akin steps down, then, in my opinion, that statewide vote total puts businessman Brad Lager next in line and provides him with a kind of grassroots legitimacy.

Party backing is something that Lager will mostly have to arrange on his own. To some extent his experience in the Missouri Senate and his race against Kinder garnered him a base within the party, but I'm not sure if that is sufficient. Kinder, as the de facto head of the Missouri Republican party, could express support for Lager as a replacement to Akin. The fact that Lager waged a scorched earth campaign against Peter Kinder makes that personally hard for Kinder to do, but it also heightens the political rewards because it symbolizes the coming together of two factions within the party to make common cause against a greater foe: Democrats.

Lager represents a fresh start for Missouri Republicans eager to unseat Claire McCaskill. He doesn't live in the St. Louis area like so many other candidates on the Republican slate. He has something of a grassroots base as well as establishment support. He's a businessman who's started multiple companies and he's a legislator with a track record as a fiscal hawk. He's earned an A+ rating from the NRA. But ultimately, he's a compromise candidate.

When I first started hearing that Akin might step down, my initial response was to tweet my support for Hector Maldonado. Later I thought about drafting 2010 Tea party favorite Chuck Purgason for the job. I've seen the establishment names out there, too. Former Senator Jim Talent would be ok, but he's already declined. His wife, Brenda Talent, would be an interesting choice, but I think I'm the only one who thinks that. Matt Blunt would be a stretch because his dad's already a senator. Ann Wagner is a non-starter for me as is Kit Bond. And none of them has the legitimacy of a recent, closely-fought statewide election like Brad Lager does. A nod from Peter Kinder in support of Lager represents an opportunity to bandage the wounds the party suffered during the primary much as Indiana's elder statesman Dick Lugar recently salved the wounds of his primary loss to Richard Mourdock. It's time to set aside the factions and compromise on a unity candidate: Brad Lager.


freespeak said...

Did not Brunner get the votes?

dsm said...


Brunner got about 30% of the GOP US Senate votes. That means that 70% of primary voters voted for someone else. If we're not taking the winner of the race, then we should also consider Steelman. Keep in mind that Steelman isn't from StL (which I think is a plus) and there is value in having a woman face Claire.

I think Brad Lager resets the race in a way that neither Steelman or Brunner can. It's a party unity play.

TaxpayerWatchdog said...

Lager has not shown an ability to close the deal. He has lost two statewide races. As for "party unity", throwing out the votes of the Republican base that backed Akin would likely create far more disunity that giving a promotion to a still not well known Lager. There is a lot to like about the guy, but I cannot get excited about this idea.