McCaskill surges in polls as Akin’s abortion comments draw fire

Two new polls Wednesday showed Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill leading Republican U.S. Rep. Todd Akin by six points as Akin faced a new round of questions about four-year-old comments about abortion providers.

In a 2008 speech on the House floor, Akin linked abortion providers to terrorists and suggested it was a “common practice” for those providers to give “abortions to women who are not actually pregnant.”

The remarks made the rounds on the Internet as Akin was in Washington raising money for his Missouri race against McCaskill. For Akin, the attention to the remarks was ill-timed as he struggles to emerge from the weeks-old shadow of his remarks about “legitimate rape” that were broadcast Aug. 19 on a St. Louis television station.

Akin, a six-term congressman from the St. Louis area, reacted to the new remarks by releasing a statement from Abby Johnson, whom the campaign identified as a former Planned Parenthood director in Bryan, Texas, from 2007 to 2009.

“I can attest that when I served as directorwe often scared women into getting services they did not need — including abortion — so we could collect the fees,” Johnson said. “This included women who were not pregnant and women who were in the process of miscarrying.

“Anyone that would attack Congressman Todd Akin for his factual comments on the House floor in 2008 are misguided at best.”

McCaskill’s campaign declined to comment on the remarks.

But Michelle Trupiano, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood, called Johnson’s remarks “an absolutely ridiculous claim.” It “just goes to show how extreme Todd Akin is, and he’s not in touch with what happens in women’s lives,” Trupiano said.

Akin made his remarks on Jan. 22, 2008, as one of several anti-abortion lawmakers who spoke on the House floor on the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that determined that women have a legal right to an abortion.

During his speech, Akin described abortion as “un-American” because it runs contrary to the fundamental right to life described in the Declaration of Independence. He said that Americans one day would look back on these years of legalized abortion the same way people now view the slave era.

Referring to America’s fight against terrorists, he added, “We have terrorists in our own culture called abortionists.” He described physicians who perform abortions as “bottom-of-the-food-chain doctors.”

“You find that along with the culture of death go all kinds of other lawbreaking — the not following good sanitary procedures, giving abortions to women who are not actually pregnant, cheating on taxes, all these kinds of things, the misuse of anesthetic so that people die or almost die,” Akin said in that 2008 speech. “All of these things are common practice.”

The furor over Akin’s comments in August that women have the biological capability to ward off pregnancy after a rape appears to have taken a bite out of Akin’s standing in the polls and apparently has boosted McCaskill’s ability to raise money.

The two new polls each showed McCaskill leading by 6 points. Rasmussen Reports reported 51 percent for McCaskill to 45 percent for Akin. Another survey from Public Policy Polling showed McCaskill leading 46-40 percent.

Shortly after the Aug. 7 primary, Akin led McCaskill by 11 points in one poll and by just one point in another.

“Some polls will show us up, and some polls will show us down,” said McCaskill spokeswoman Caitlin Legacki. “We’re taking nothing for granted and working every day like we’re 10 points behind.”

McCaskill announced on Twitter that she raised $5.8 million in the third quarter, which may be an all-time record for Missouri fundraising for a single quarter. That was more than twice as much as she raised in the third quarter in 2006 during her first Senate run. She raised $2.5 million in the second quarter this year.

The figure dwarfs the $2.4 million that Republican Roy Blunt of Missouri raised in the third quarter of 2010 in his winning Senate race. In the storied 2000 Missouri Senate race, Republican John Ashcroft raised $1.5 million between July 20 and Sept. 30, while Democrat Mel Carnahan raised $1.3 million.

The day’s developments amounted to another setback for Akin, said Dave Robertson, a political scientist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

“I’d say the odds continue to be against Todd Akin because he’s not making up any ground in the election, which is just about a month away. The clock is winding down on his effort to catch up to McCaskill and win the race.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.