The Problem is the Base
The fundamental problem for the Republican party isn't Todd Akin's crazy rape statement on Sunday, or the fact that he refused to drop out of the Senate race, or even that other Republican extremists like Steve King are keeping the story alive by supporting and encouraging him (more on that below). The fundamental problem is the Republican party base, which Akin, King, and yes, Paul Ryan sit snugly and comfortably in the middle of.
So, yes, the last few days have been rough for Todd Akin and the Republican Party. First came the local news interview, that little "legitimate rape" thingy. Then came the rightfully angry responses from women and the faux outrage from fellow Republicans (who mostly had agreed with Akin on his abortion policy and his attempts to narrow the definition of rape), then the "sorry but not sorry" apology from Akin, then came Romney and Ryan assuring voters that their administration would not deny abortions to victims of rape and incest - even though their platform and Ryan's voting record contradict that statement.
Right about now, the Republican Party is trying to paint Todd Akin as an extreme outlier, an embarrassing anomaly with views far from anything that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would believe. But they can't put this story to bed so easily. Ryan's voting record, and the record of the House Republicans on these issues, won't let them. And neither will the candidates they will have to run with in key swing states like Iowa Congressman Steve King. If King is any indication, and I believe he is, Akin isn't as far out of line as the GOP would like voters to think. King, who is in of the most highly targeted races in the country against a great Democratic candidate Christie Vilsack, defended Akin yesterday, saying he didn't know anyone who had been raped and gotten pregnant either.
Meanwhile, the same day, at the Iowa State Fair to a crowd of excited fans, Iowa Congressman Steve King announced that he would do everything he could to help his good friend, Paul Ryan, and his running mate Mitt Romney get to the White House. He told the crowd that "Paul listens to me," and that he would play a huge role in the Romney/Ryan administration. Yeah, huge.
Some background on Ryan's close friend Steve King is in order for those who may not know of him. While Romney and Ryan have been trying to balance a conservative credibility with their moderate public image, King has made no such attempts. This past May at a town hall meeting in Pocahontas, Iowa, King answered a question regarding immigration. He said that the United States historically has had the "pick of the litter" when it came to immigrants. He compared immigrants to dogs, saying:
"We've always had bird dogs around our place in our family. There's a black lab and a white lab, a yellow lab, and my brother has a chocolate lab. Well you go in and you look at the litter of pups, and you watch them. You want a good bird dog, and you want the one that's gonna be aggressive? Pick the one that's the friskiest, the one that's in the games the most - not the one that's over there sleeping in the corner. You want a pet to sit on the couch, pick the one that's sleeping in the corner."
Given how much respect King has for dogs, this was a pretty incendiary comment.
What King and Akin represent is a growing Tea Party influence on the once-moderate Republican Party. More candidates are rising through the ranks, backed with Tea Party intensity, Koch brothers and other special interest money, and far right Christian ideas, to remake the "American Dream" and bring "values" back to a godless and secular United States. What would have seemed ridiculous to propose 10 years ago is being passed through state legislatures across the country and in the Republican controlled US House. These days, states blatantly ignore Roe v. Wade, while other states pass laws like Arizona SB 1070 to aggressively question and detain anyone who looks as though they may be an illegal immigrant.
King and Akin also represent a view of government that Romney and Ryan try to downplay in the press. But both Romney and Ryan are clearly pro-life. Romney said that he would "absolutely" support a personhood bill to protect unborn fetuses and criminalize abortion, Ryan has throughout his career supported outlawing abortion even in cases of rape and incest, and as mentioned before the Republican platform on the issue is at the far edge of extremism. And don't forget that Paul Ryan - along with Akin, King, and 213 other Republican members of Congress, the vast majority of their caucus - cosponsored HR-3. The bill, as amended and passed in the House of Representatives, was designed to keep taxpayer money from funding abortions, and in the first draft, also legally redefined rape to "forcible" rape, and banned abortion in cases of rape and incest as well.
Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney, and the rest of the GOP are trying desperately to turn the subject back to the economy, because the hard times of the last 4 years has made voters open to kicking the incumbent out. They say that Todd Akin and Steve King misspoke, and that their views do not represent the whole of the Republican Party. But while candidates from the Republican base like Akin and King aren't as slick as Romney and Ryan and the way they express themselves isn't as carefully poll-tested, the fact is that both on social issues and economic issues, Romney and Ryan's policy positions are every bit as extreme as the Republican base. The fact that Romney picked Paul Ryan, whose stands on abortion re identical to Akin and King and whose budget could have been written by the Koch brothers, is the ultimate sign that the far right tea party Republican base is thoroughly in charge.
Steve King was right was right. Paul Ryan does listen to him. He would be a huge player in a Romney-Ryan administration. No matter how off-message King and Akin are, they and the Republican base run the Republican party's policy platform.