I’ve written before about how to recover from foot-in-the-mouth disease but the hits just keep on coming. Over the weekend, Todd Akin, the Republican candidate for the Senate in Missouri made remarks about how a woman’s system can “shut down” and prevent pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape”. To say the least, his remarks created a firestorm.
Can he recover? There’s an old saying that a verbal gaffe is when you accidentally and unintentionally say what you think. No matter what Akin does now, some people will think, “He said what he truly believes. He can apologize all he wants but he said what he truly believes.” Akin has almost certainly lost these voters.
Can Akin recover other voters? To do so, he needs to do at least three things:
- Recant and apologize forthrightly — he has to change positions, no matter how awkward that may be. And he has to apologize, clearly and without reservation. So far, he hasn’t really done either — saying merely that he “misspoke”.
- Actions more than words — After a thorough and honest apology, Akin needs to be seen working and acting on behalf of rape victims. He could volunteer in health clinics, spend more time with women’s advocates, etc. He has to be seen, not just heard. This might be called the Michael Vick school of image rehabilitation. After Vick spent time in jail for illegal dog fighting, he apologized, recanted, and spent a great deal of time working for dog health causes.
- Change the subject — if Akin successfully completes the first two steps, he will ultimately be able to change the subject and focus on something more to his advantage. The problem is that this takes time and he doesn’t have much time — the election is barely more than two months away. By comparison, it took Tiger Woods — a hero to many — approximately two years to recover his reputation.
My guess is that there’s not enough time for Akin to recover before the election. From a purely political perspective, if the Republicans want to win the election, they need a new candidate.