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Did Todd Akin just cost GOP a US Senate takeover? (+video)

With the uproar over his comment on 'legitimate rape,' Missouri Rep. Todd Akin has likely hurt his chances at beating Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) in November. Control of the Senate hangs in the balance – and Akin is resisting calls to exit the race.

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Akin won his party’s primary on Aug. 7, and has every right to stay in the race. It’s too soon to say how Akin’s comment will affect his challenge to Senator McCaskill, seen as one of the most endangered Democrats in the Senate, especially after the flap over her use of taxpayer money to pay for senatorial use of her private plane. Before Akin’s comment, he led McCaskill by an average of five percentage points.

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Now, with Akin still running, McCaskill likely has a better shot at holding onto her job than she did before Sunday, and if she goes on to win, it’s likely she will owe her victory to Akin’s comment on rape.

The race for partisan control of the Senate, in fact, could hinge on this one race. The Republicans came into the 2012 cycle with the playing field tilted in their favor: The Democrats are defending 23 seats while the Republicans are defending only 10. And with a current 53-to-47 Democratic majority, all the GOP needs is a net gain of four seats to take over – or three, if Mitt Romney wins the presidency, since Vice President Paul Ryan would break any tie votes.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report lists seven Democratic-held seats and three Republican-held seats as tossups. In two of the three Republican-held seats, the challengers have an excellent chance at winning: In Massachusetts, Democrat Elizabeth Warren can beat Sen. Scott Brown (R), who, despite his popularity, is playing on Democratic turf to hold onto the late Sen. Edward Kennedy’s old seat. In Maine, the retirement of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) has opened a path for popular independent former Gov. Angus King, who hasn’t said which party he would caucus with, but it’s expected to be Democrats.

The third tossup race for a Republican-held seat, Nevada, pits Sen. Dean Heller against Rep. Shelley Berkley. But Congresswoman Berkley faces an ethics investigation, which damages her chances.

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