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It is not unusual to see on some of the more majestic lawns in Kansas City a string of Mitt Romney signs with a “Claire McCaskill for Senate” sign popping up like a weed among them.
More than a few of the “respectable” Republicans hereabouts have taken a pass on the Todd Akin for Senate campaign. They will cite any number of reasons why, but not the one that really unnerves them – the fear of seeming uncool.
The locals got their low-dose Kool-Aid from D.C. “We should sink Todd Akin,” the soulless Karl Rove joked to a group of affluent Republicans in Tampa this August. “If he’s found mysteriously murdered, don’t look for my whereabouts!”
Rove was responding to Akin’s instantly notorious remark on “Meet the Press”: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Akin apologized. Rove wasn’t listening. Too many invites to too many swell events hung in the balance.
Almost no one in Washington did listen except former House speaker and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. Earlier this week, Gingrich came to town to put the minds of our respectable conservative friends at ease.
I had the occasion to introduce Newt at three separate venues. The first was the most fun. The evening he arrived I was informed that he would be free for breakfast the next morning if any opportunities presented themselves.
In calling around, I learned that a local breakfast club, chock-a-block with just the kind of Republicans Newt needed to reach, was meeting that morning.
I had spoken to the group before and knew the club president. He obliged by bumping the scheduled speaker and slotting Newt in instead. He sent out a late email blast to the members, but few saw it.
As I waited outside to greet Newt, a few of those who had not seen the email asked me if I was speaking. No, I said. Newt Gingrich was. “Yea, sure, Jack,” said the one guy, “whatever.”
Newt’s entry caused a literal buzz. He got rolling promptly and spoke fluently without notes for about 40 minutes on a range of economic issues, especially energy and bioscience, and took any number of questions.
Throughout the hour or so he held forth, Newt dazzled the crowd of 100-plus with an uncanny mastery of the details.
You and I might have known, for instance, that there were American commandos at the ready in Sicily on the night of the Benghazi attack, but Newt knew they were in Sigonella, Sicily, and how far away that was, and who they were, and all this in response to a question.
I made the case in the introduction that Gingrich’s schooling of Romney in the Republican debates was what made Romney so formidable in his showdown with Obama. Newt did not disagree.
Todd Akin joined us for the other two events. An engineer by training, Akin clearly lacks Gingrich’s verbal dexterity, and he is the first to admit it. It is not hard to see how, when placed in a pressure cooker like “Meet the Press,” he might stumble.
Akin compensates, however, with sincerity and reliability. With a 97 percent American Conservative Union rating and a zero rating from every known liberal group in America, Akin is deeply Christian and refreshingly, if a bit recklessly, outspoken.
An Army veteran, Akin has seen three of his sons graduate from the Naval Academy and go on to join the Marine Corps. He has also been arrested more than once for protesting at an abortion clinic, a resume enhancer in my book but obviously not in the local media’s.
Rent-a-mobs showed up at a couple of Akin’s appearances. One group rolled up in huge fire engine-yellow bus featuring a beaming photo of Akin’s opponent and a sign reading “Firefighters for McCaskill.” The police had to be called when they refused to move the bus.
I explained to one firefighter I knew that people respect him and his colleagues because they protect innocent life. By supporting McCaskill, however, they endorse Obamacare, which assures that millions more innocent lives will be taken, and we’ll all be paying for it.
He looked at me as if I had just tried to explain how electrons transition between two different states by absorbing or emitting photons. Huh?
But Gingrich was not there to talk to the firefighters in their yellow T-shirts or the feminists in their pink T-shirts or the ACORN-types in whatever they happened to be wearing.
Gingrich came to convince the wavering Republicans to stop wavering. In a state Romney should take by 10 or more percent, Akin does not need any Democratic votes. He just needs Romney voters to remember, as Gingrich put it, that six seconds of speaking incorrectly does not balance six years of voting incorrectly.
If Akin wins, as Gingrich observed, it will not mean just a repudiation of McCaskill and Obamacare, it will mean a repudiation of the Republican establishment and hopefully some career-killing egg on the face of would-be hitman Karl Rove.