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Missouri Scrambles GOP Path to Senate Majority

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Unless GOP Rep. Todd Akin changes his mind about staying in the Missouri race, vulnerable Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill will face an opponent without any support from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Senate leaders and the party's presidential ticket.

Rep. Todd Akin's decision Tuesday to stay in the Missouri Senate race makes the Republican path to the majority steeper as the Show-Me State is no longer one of the GOP's strongest pickup opportunities.

Akin made it clear that he has no plans to step aside amid the controversy over remarks he made about rape and pregnancy, despite immense pressure from party leaders across the widest possible swath of the GOP establishment.

Unless Akin changes his mind over the next month - a scenario that looks increasingly difficult - vulnerable Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) will face an opponent without any support from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Senate leaders and the party's presidential ticket.

The NRSC on Monday took a very hard line from which it is unlikely to be able to walk back.

"Senator McCaskill knows that the only way she wins re-election is if Todd Akin is her opponent in November," NRSC Communications Director Brian Walsh said in a statement.

"We continue to hope that Congressman Akin will do the right thing for the values he holds dear, but there should be no mistake - if he continues with this misguided campaign, it will be without the support and resources of the NRSC," Walsh said.

The whole episode has led GOP consultants to begin to rethink the Senate map and ponder where the next best pickup opportunity might be.

"If I'm [NRSC Chairman] John Cornyn, if I'm Karl Rove, if I'm running the outside groups, I know I have to turn one more seat," Florida-based GOP strategist Ana Navarro said. "I'm now looking at the map and thinking, 'Which of these states are the most feasible?'"

Akin's decision could be a boon for more GOP money moving toward Montana, where Sen. Jon Tester (D) faces a tough challenge from Rep. Denny Rehberg (R). It could also move the open-seat Wisconsin Senate race, where former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) faces Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D), further up on Republicans' radar. The GOP-aligned group Crossroads GPS is already spending money on ads in the Badger State.

But the money that the NRSC and its aligned outside groups would have spent in Missouri could be redirected toward making a second-tier race more competitive. Democrats are viewed as having an edge in the Senate contests in Florida, New Mexico and Ohio, but all have the potential to grow more competitive this fall.

The extra resources could make a difference in Florida, especially, because it is such a prohibitively expensive state.

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