(CNN) – Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, who's retiring after this year, said Thursday the personal beliefs of some Republicans dampened her party's focus on the economy this election year.
"We had Republican candidates who got very high profile and said some very stupid things. I think that really tainted the party," the senator said on CNN's "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien."
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Hutchison primarily pointed to Rep. Todd Akin, her party's Senate nominee from Missouri who drew sharp criticism in August after he said a woman's body is capable of preventing pregnancy from "legitimate rape." Despite strong rebuke by Mitt Romney and national Republican groups against Akin, Hutchison said the party failed to reshape its reputation after the incident.
Akin ultimately lost his Senate bid to incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill, a highly vulnerable Democrat who gained momentum after her Republican opponent's comment.
Hutchison, who was elected in 1993, argued that even though "no one embraced Todd Akin after he said those things," his remarks were still used against the GOP.
Democrats indeed pounced on the Missouri congressman's comments and again when another Republican Senate candidate, Richard Mourdock of Indiana, argued that pregnancies from rape are "something that God intended to happen." The remarks further fueled Democratic messaging this election, which attempted to portray the Republican Party as a threat to women's rights.
While playing defense, the GOP lost its focus on the economy, Hutchison said. She also argued the party must "stop acting like the woman is a throw-away" in elections.
"People have personal beliefs, and what we need to do is fashion a party around the economics and the long-term viability of the economy of our country," she continued. "When people start trying to go into such personal issues and then try to form a party around it, it's very difficult."