Analysts believe Rep. Todd Akin would have stood a good chance to beat unpopular incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill in the Missouri race had it not been for his on-air "legitimate rape" comments, among other campaign missteps.
The epic show that will be the Missouri Senate race premieres Sept. 25 after 5 p.m. Central Daylight Time.
That's the last moment, under Missouri law, that Rep. Todd Akin can petition a state court to remove his name from the Nov. 6 ballot as the Republican nominee.
But even before the curtain rises next Tuesday evening, political operatives in Missouri suspect they know how this movie is going to end: with an unpopular incumbent, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D), winning re-election. And that leaves some Republicans feeling a Brando-esque sense of regret about Akin: He coulda been a contender.
"After the primary, the race was Todd Akin's to lose - and he is well on his way to doing that," a Missouri Republican consultant said.
As a generic Republican, Akin had a relatively comfortable path to victory running against an unpopular incumbent in a red state. A Mason-Dixon Polling and Research survey taken in August found only 39 percent of likely Missouri voters had a favorable opinion of McCaskill.
Even after his flameout spurred by talking on camera about "legitimate rape," and his subsequent abandonment by the Republican establishment, which has tried and so far failed to persuade him to drop out of the race, some Republicans watching the Missouri race believe he might have been able to craft a viable campaign against McCaskill. They said independent voters, deeply dissatisfied with the incumbent, might have been willing to entertain voting for Akin if he had hewed a communications strategy aimed at the right demographic and raised enough money to support it.
But Akin, never a particularly great fundraiser, doesn't appear to have raised enough money to run an effective statewide campaign. One Republican watching ad buys in the race noted that McCaskill - who has been up with about $500,000 a week in TV buys - was set to outspend Akin by about a 10-1 ratio over the next week.
Akin has appeared to have some temporary fundraising success running against the national establishment that abandoned him. His campaign called national GOP leaders "corrupt party bosses" in a recent email to supporters. But that type of messaging could have a negative impact in the long run.
The Republican consultant in the state bemoaned that Akin had alienated some Republicans with his emails after alienating Democrats and some independents with his comments on rape. Akin's messaging strategy, according to this consultant, is "like walking a tightrope in clown shoes."
Republicans underlined just how unpopular the incumbent is.
"You can tell, culturally, that people don't want to vote for Claire. You can feel it, you can see it," Missouri-based GOP strategist James Harris said. But the way Akin is framing himself, "he's not going to meet the minimum threshold for voters" who don't want to vote for McCaskill.
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