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Akin calls McCaskill less 'ladylike' than in 2006, while independent groups run ads for both

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 27, 2012 - Republican U.S. Senate nominee Todd Akin is once again in the news for something he's said about women. In this case, it's his comment that Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill has not been as "ladylike" as she was in her first Senate bid in 2006.

Akin, a congressman from Wildwood, told the Kansas City Star on Thursday that he was confident about his chances of victory, in part, because of McCaskill's demeanor during their first joint appearance -- a forum before the Missouri Press Association.

“I think we have a very clear path to victory, and apparently Claire McCaskill thinks we do, too, because she was very aggressive at the debate, which was quite different than it was when she ran against Jim Talent,” Akin said in the interview with the Star. “She had a confidence and was much more ladylike (in 2006), but in the debate on Friday she came out swinging, and I think that’s because she feels threatened.”

And on Wednesday, he told supporters in Rolla, Mo., that McCaskill's forum performance was "like somebody let a wildcat out of the cage," according to the Los Angeles Times, one of several national news outlets following the contest, which could determine control of the U.S. Senate next year.

(Update) McCaskill said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe'' on Friday that "I don't know exactly what his accusation that I'm not 'ladylike' means."

“I think the debate was tough for Todd because I went through the list of his very, very extreme positions and I think he wasn't prepared to answer some of that,” she said.

McCaskill also has used his 'ladylike' comment in her latest fundraising drive. The email appeal, entitled "the latest Akin misogyny" and sent out by campaign manager Adrienne Marsh, asked, "Since when is being a strong, informed woman not ladylike? Every lady I want to be like stands up for a woman's right to choose, tax relief for families, and opportunities for a higher education. And if Claire taking a stand against Todd Akin's extreme plans to privatize Social Security and Medicare, end federal student loans, and get rid of the minimum wage isn't lady like, then I don't know what is..." (End update)

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington and head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, issued a disparaging statement:

"Todd Akin is at it again with another comment that's demeaning to women and offensive to all. What's truly astonishing is that the national party embraced Todd Akin yesterday and now refuses to repudiate his statement. Unless the national party condemns Todd Akin and his latest comments, every Republican candidate in the country will be held accountable for their support of Akin's beliefs and sentiments."

(Update) On Friday, Akin also gained two endorsements: from entertainer Pat Boone, and former U.S. Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo.

A month ago, Bond had been among Missouri's former senators who had called on Akin to step down over his "legitimate rape'' comment. But Friday, Bond said in a statement, "Todd's comments were unacceptable but he's apologized, I believe his regret is sincere, and it is time to focus on the national stakes in this election," Bond said in a Friday statement. "Todd can win and I'll be doing what I can to help ensure the Democrats that gave us big government and job-killing policies like 'Obamacare' don't continue controlling the U.S. Senate."

McCaskill communications director Caitlin Legacki replied, "Birds of a feather flock together and today one big earmarker is simply endorsing another. Kit Bond is supporting Todd Akin because he knows that Todd Akin is the only candidate in this race who will carry his torch by defending the wasteful practice of earmarking. .."

Boone praised Akin's opposition to abortion, and lambasted McCaskill's support for reproductive rights. (End update)

Read the Beacon's earlier story:

The newest TV ads focusing on Missouri’s U.S. Senate contest aren’t coming from the candidates, but from outside independent political action committees that have jumped into the fray on behalf of Republican Todd Akin or Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill.

Freedom's Defense Fund, a conservative group, announced that it’s spending $250,000 to air a spot that takes aim at McCaskill, who is attacked for being “in lockstep” with President Barack Obama, supporting “socialized medicine and expanding the welfare state.”

The ad also calls on viewers to support Akin. In a statement, the group says its ad “takes McCaskill to task for her consistent support of Barack Obama's unpopular policies. The ad is the first in a campaign that will include saturation cable advertising in swing counties, radio and aggressive web advertising.”

Meanwhile, the Senate Conservatives Fund, a SuperPAC with ties to influential Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said Thursday it’s “pledging to direct $290,000” to the effort to defeat McCaskill, in office since 2007.

But the combined pro-Akin spending of about $540,000 is dwarfed by the launch of a $1 million pro-McCaskill TV ad buy by two Democratic-aligned groups that have joined forces: the Service Employees International Union and Emily’s List, a political-action committee that largely backs Democrats who support reproductive rights.

According to the coalition's announcement, the pro-McCaskill spot will run on cable and broadcast stations in St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield, Mo.

The pro-McCaskill adopens with the now-famous TV footage of Akin discussing “legitimate rape” with KTVI newsman Charles Jaco and then highlights his other comments or views.

“Claire McCaskill is the kind of independent voice Missouri women want in Washington,” said Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List. “And the contrast could not be clearer. In a class of total extremists, Todd Akin is possibly the most out-of-touch sounding Republican in the country. We all remember the ‘legitimate rape’ comment, but Akin also thinks Medicare is unconstitutional, called federal student loans a cancer, and opposed the national sex offender registry. Todd Akin is just plain wrong for Missouri.”

Akin and McCaskill also are running TV ads, but with the influx of private groups, most of the U.S. Senate ads seen by TV viewers likely soon won’t be from the official campaigns.

Such independent spots cannot be coordinated with the candidate’s campaign, and the ads’ themes or attacks -- or accuracy -- can’t be cleared by the candidate, either.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.