Will National GOP now aid Akin’s Missouri Senate run?
“If it’s between six seconds of stupidity and six years of bad votes, what do you want?”
Newt Gingrich shared that same line with Human Events Thursday that he has used before numerous crowds during a recent swing through Missouri. He was referring, of course, to the nationally-watched Senate race in the Show-Me State between liberal Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill and conservative Republican challenger Todd Akin.
It’s been less than two months since it appeared as though the once-excellent chances of six-term Rep. Akin were eviscerated by his reference in a television interview to “legitimate rape.” Cut off from funding by the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (and the SuperPAC American Crossroads), and called on to withdraw by Republicans from Mitt Romney on down, Akin seemed to be political “walking dead” as he defiantly clung to the GOP standard.
Last week, however, all of this appeared to have turned around. With the passage of the final date Akin could remove himself from the state ballot — Sept. 24 — and a PPP poll showing him trailing McCaskill by a wafer-thin margin of 45-44 percent, signs are strong that national Republicans will put this race back on their “must help” list.
“There is no question that for Missourians who believe we need to stop the reckless Washington spending, rein-in the role of government in people’s lives, and finally focus on growing jobs in this country that Todd Akin is a far more preferable candidate than liberal Sen. Claire McCaskill,” Rob Jesmer, NRSC executive director, said last week. “As with every Republican Senate candidate, we hope Todd Akin wins in November and we will continue to monitor this race closely in the days ahead.”
Akin’s statement came on the heels of endorsements from Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), former presidential candidate Rick Santorum, and Missouri’s GOP Sen. Roy Blunt.
“And we’d welcome back Karl Rove (of American Crossroads) with open arms,” Rex Elsass, Akin’s campaign strategist told Human Events. “It was unfortunate to watch Republicans abandon Todd, especially when he apologized on television for his remarks. It’s like watching the two Republican U.S. Senate nominees (Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown and Connecticut’s Linda McMahon) abandon Mitt Romney after his ‘47 percent‘ comment. But what kept Todd going was the all-out backing from so many conservatives, in Missouri and nationwide.”
Does party loyalty demand too much?
According to Elsass, in the weeks following the furor over his remarks, Akin brought in more than $700,000 in small donations “from people who really are concerned that a supporter of higher taxes, Obamacare, and abortion could be re-elected because of a proven conservative abandoned by his own party leaders.” Led by Gingrich and Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum, grass-roots conservatives launched a bus tour on behalf of Akin urging support for the embattled conservative. Social conservatives and pro-lifers rallied to Akin’s side, with a group known as “Pastors in Pews” expecting 500 church leaders for an event in St. Louis and drawing more than 800. A source close to the Romney campaign who requested anonymity told us that vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan did not want to call on friend and fellow pro-lifer Akin to quit the race but “he had to do what the campaign hierarchy told him to do.”
Mike Huckabee, who backed Akin for nomination in the primary over two better-funded Republicans, has already made one appearance for his friend in Missouri and is scheduled for at least two more. The former Arkansas governor’s message has always been the same: that cultural conservatives almost always back Republican nominees that they are not fully in agreement with once a primary is over, and are asking for the same from the party establishment with the proverbial shoe on the other foot.
There are Missourians who don’t see it that way. One source within the state Republican leadership said there could be a “drop off of tens of thousands of voters from Romney, who has a big lead over Barack Obama in every state poll, to the Senate race. They won’t vote for McCaskill but they can’t bring themselves to vote for Akin.” Multi-millionaire businessman Sam Fox — the former U.S. ambassador to Belgium considered Missouri’s top GOP fund-raiser–has made it clear he will not raise any money for Akin.
“Sometimes,” John Kennedy once said, “party loyalty demands too much.” For conservatives, however, loyalty is obviously important and, for the most part, those on the right have remained loyal to Todd Akin in his moment of need. As one conservative activist put it to Human Events, “it looks like we bludgeoned ‘the establishment.’”
But that remains to be seen. Whether the national Republican leadership finally backs Akin in the twilight days of his contest with McCaskill could be a key decision in the GOP’s effort to win control of the Senate — and a decision that could have an impact on the factions within the Republican Party for years to come.