For embattled incumbent Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill, winning reelection to her Missouri Senate seat was going to require a number of things to break her way. First and foremost, she needed to draw the most divisively conservative opponent possible from the trio of Republicans who were set to compete in the GOP primary.
Mission accomplished: While pre-primary head-to-head polling showed that former state Sen. Sarah Steelman and businessman John Brunner both looked like better matchups for the GOP against McCaskill, the victor of the primary was Rep. Todd Akin, arch-social conservative from Missouri's 2nd District.
The next thing that needed to happen was for Akin to say something very stupid and alienating. Flash-forward to Aug. 19, 2012. In an interview with St. Louis' KTVI, Akin offered up his views on whether abortion should be available to women who have been raped:
Well, you know, people always want to try to make that as one of those things, 'Well, how do you, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question?' First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.
The results were a "just add water" controversy that suddenly gave McCaskill her best shot at retaining her seat, as conservatives very quickly withdrew their vocal and financial support. That support eventually returned, as Akin's remarks were not sufficient to give McCaskill a blowout lead, but it was a sufficient enough gap to hurt Akin. (Akin would compound the matter by making a series of giddily misogynistic cracks at McCaskill.)
McCaskill is in no way out of the woods yet, but her reversal of fortunes is one of the 2012 races most noteworthy. At the time of this writing, McCaskill leads in the HuffPost Pollster model by a 50.3 percent to 45.8 percent margin.