In a debate before the Chicago Tribune editorial board last Thursday, U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-McHenry) suggested that he might rein in some of the outlandish remarks that have characterized his campaign. Walsh acknowledged that he got a “little ahead of myself with my language” and needed to balance “straight talk and responsible talk.”
The 8th district lawmaker stated earlier this month that “radical Muslims” are “trying to kill Americans every week.” And in July, Walsh suggested that his Democratic opponent Tammy Duckworth was not a true hero because she made frequent reference to her military record. Duckworth lost both her legs in the Iraq War.
Walsh has not said anything quite so provocative over the last few days. But there are new signs that the freshmen incumbent is adrift from his own party, including on what should be done about U.S. Rep. Todd Akin (R-Missouri).
Akin caused a national uproar and almost universal condemnation Sunday by stating in a radio interview that women’s bodies are somehow able to prevent pregnancies in instances of “legitimate rape.” Presumed GOP nominee Mitt Romney subsequently called on Akin to end his bid for U.S. Senate and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) said that they would stop supporting the Akin campaign.
Walsh took a somewhat contrary position. He said that the comments were “offensive, insulting and wrong.” But Walsh was “bothered by the silence of members of our own party to stand up for him.”
Akins remarks have policy implications. As Ezra Klein of the Washington Post points out, while the country is divided on abortion almost all Americans want abortion legal in cases of rape. Though the GOP quickly backed away from Akin's comments, House Republicans did sponsor a bill last year to ban federal funding for abortions except in instances of “forcible rape.” The bill was later revised to “rape”, but this distinguishing of different kinds of rape is reminiscent of the “legitimate rape” remark.
Duckworth, who supports keeping abortion legal, has responded to Akin’s comments by participating in a Planned Parenthood rally in Lincolnshire.
Walsh, who opposes abortion, was at least partly sticking up for fellow Tea Partier Akin, as the freshmen incumbent’s relationship with the Republican party erodes. While Duckworth will speak at the Democratic Party convention in Charlotte, Walsh will not even attend the Republican convention in Tampa. He told the Daily Herald that he would rather not “mingle with party insiders.”
The feeling appears mutual. According to rankings released today by the National Journal, the Illinois 8th District is the third most likely House seat in the country to change party control. The first two in the national rankings feature retiring incumbents. “The NRCC hasn’t earmarked of any of its Chicago TV reservations for defending Walsh,” the National Journal writes. “He’ll be going it alone in the fall, just like in 2010.”