KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Republican U.S. Rep. Todd Akin's jaw-dropping gaffe about rape and pregnancy, and his subsequent loss to incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill, ranks as Missouri's top story of 2012, according to a survey of Associated Press member newspaper editors and broadcast news directors.
Akin's ranking was no small feat in a year in which his headlines received competition from drought, Missouri's continued opposition to health care reform, a record lottery winner and more fallout from the failed Mamtek sweetener facility project in Moberly.
Akin told a St. Louis television interviewer in August that women's bodies have ways of avoiding pregnancy in what he called "legitimate rape." He later began apologizing repeatedly, but he refused calls from leading Republicans to drop out of the race so that the Missouri GOP could field a replacement candidate.
The remarks triggered so much reaction — outrage from women's groups and what-was-he-thinking confusion from Akin's Republican brethren — that most of the other races on Missouri's crowded election ballot received scant attention. Reporters staked out Akin to see if he would bow to pressure and leave the race. And once it was clear he was in for good, did he stand a chance?
In the end, McCaskill won a second term by soundly defeating Akin 55 percent to 39 percent.
Coming in second for the year's top stories was the deep and widespread drought, which plagued crops and led Gov. Jay Nixon to offer enhanced state grants to farmers needing to drill new wells.
But perhaps the drought's most significant effects weren't noticed until late in the year, when months of drought combined with a bureaucratic decision to slow the flow of water on the Missouri River lowered the Mississippi River to dangerously low levels. Water is so low from St. Louis to Cairo, Ill., that barge traffic could be halted, choking the flow of goods up and down the river and creating what some say could be an economic catastrophe.
The state's no. 3 story in 2012 was Missouri's persistent opposition to President Barack Obama's health care law. Voters passed an initiative preventing the governor from setting up a state-run health insurance exchange, and Republican legislative leaders vowed to oppose Nixon's proposal to expand Medicaid coverage as called for by the federal law.
The rest of the top 10:
—4. Joplin's ongoing recovery from the deadly May 2011 tornado continued to impress and generate headlines. The city was buoyed by a visit from President Obama for the deadly twister's one-year anniversary.