GOP Reps. Erik Paulsen and John Kline taking heat for supporting "forcible rape" language
Democrats are seeking to connect Paulsen (left) and Kline's pro-life views with Akin's (center) "legitimate rape" comments.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin's troubling "legitimate rape" comments have created an opening for Democrats challenging two Minnesota congressman representing the Twin Cities suburbs.
Last year, GOP Reps. Erik Paulsen and John Kline both supported House Resolution 3, a bill that would've banned the use of taxpayer dollars for abortions. The first iteration of the bill would've permitted the use of taxpayer funds only in the case of "forcible rape," but that term was removed before the House voted on the bill. The so-called No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act was ultimately approved by a 251-175 vote, though it stands no chance of being taken up by the Senate as long as Democrats control that chamber.
In the midst of the firestorm created by Akin's comments, Democrat Brian Barnes, Paulsen's November challenger, tried to connect the "legitimate rape" gaffe to Paulsen's strong pro-life views. In 2010, Paulsen actually co-sponsored a bill including "forcible rape" language.
"[The] comments of Rep. Erik Paulsen's colleague and close ally Todd Akin of Missouri have put the spotlight on their shared agenda, in this particular case redefining and delegitimizing rape and incest," Barnes told reporters last week. "As a husband, as a father, I am appalled -- appalled at his votes against my wife, my daughter and against all women."
Kline and Akin both sponsored the final version of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, a fact not lost on Mike Obermuller, Kline's Democratic challenger.
"To me there is no distinction" between rape and forcible rape, Obermuller told MPR, adding that while he's "no fan" of abortion, he supports a woman's right to choose.
"Rape is a heinous, disgusting crime... and the bill they've co-sponsored gives the impression that some rapes are not as bad as others, and to me that's really offensive," Obermuller said.
Paulsen told MPR he opposes Akin's comments, though he didn't specify in what respect. Kline declined MPR's request for comment.
But it's not totally clear that banging on Republicans for strong pro-life views is actually an electoral winner for Democrats. After all, the Republican Party's official national platform supports a ban on all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest.
Kathryn Pearson, a political campaigns expert from the University of Minnesota, told MinnPost that from now forward, she believes the 2012 campaigns will be dominated by economic issues.
"The conventions will, to some extent, change the conversation," Pearson said. "The parties can talk about what they want to talk about, and both parties are going to spend a lot of time talking about the economy, which is what voters care about."
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