By DAVID A. LIEB
(JEFFERSON CITY, Mo., AP) — Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill defended herself as “polite and calm” Friday in response to accusations from Republican challenger Todd Akin that she wasn’t very “ladylike” in a recent debate.
McCaskill told The Associated Press that some of Akin’s remarks have left her “a little speechless.” Akin said Thursday that McCaskill “came out swinging” in their Sept. 21 debate. He said that contrasted with her 2006 debates against then-Sen. Jim Talent, when Akin said, “she had a confidence and was very much more sort of ladylike and all.”
McCaskill frequently criticized Akin’s policies, beginning with her opening statement, during the debate hosted by the Missouri Press Association.
But the Democratic senator said Friday: “I’m hoping that people will weigh in and defend me that I was polite and calm. This wildcat, you know, furious and unladylike is kind of a headscratcher.”
Akin’s comments — whether mistaken or intentional — have loomed large in Missouri’s Senate race since shortly after he won the Aug. 7 Republican primary. They also have generated ripples through national politics, including the presidential race and Republicans’ efforts to gain the four seats necessary to win control of the Senate from Democrats.
Last month, Akin told a TV interviewer asking about his opposition to abortion that women’s bodies have ways of averting pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape.” Akin has apologized repeatedly since then but rejected calls from top Republicans — including presidential nominee Mitt Romney — to quit the race. Meanwhile, Akin has lost the financial backing of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the deep-pocketed Crossroads group affiliated with GOP strategist Karl Rove.
Democrats have attempted to link Akin’s “ladylike” comment to his remark about “legitimate rape” to suggest he is insensitive to women and to help drive their own fundraising efforts.
The Democratic National Committee and Emily’s List, which backs Democratic women who support abortion rights, both cited the remarks in fundraising emails Thursday. On Friday, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand highlighted Akin’s remarks as the centerpiece of an online fundraising drive to raise $75,000 for McCaskill in two days.
Akin also received a recent fundraising boost, picking up the endorsement Thursday of the Senate Conservatives Fund, whose members pledged $290,000 for his campaign.