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What to Expect From a Sen. Todd Akin

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo

If Rep. Todd Akin somehow overcomes an apparent propensity to make impolitic statements and wins in November, his policy positions and freedom from leadership could make him a rogue actor in a Senate already mired in gridlock.

Akin, the GOP Senate candidate in Missouri, has faced an uphill battle to unseat Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill since winning the nomination and making widely criticized comments in defense of his position against abortion in cases of rape and incest. But his continued presence in the race as a favorite of conservatives is forcing establishment Republicans to thread a needle between hoping he can help them win back the Senate and distancing themselves from his erroneous contention that women's bodies can prevent pregnancy from a "legitimate rape."

Akin has consistently had a 100 percent rating from National Right to Life in the House, and anti-abortion groups expect he would be a champion for their issues in the Senate.

If elected to the Senate, Akin would have a much wider array of procedural options to push his causes than as a rank-and-file Member of the House because the Senate's rules afford much more power to each lawmaker.

Other recent cases of Senators being elected without serious leadership support are not perfect comparisons because those people were temporarily ostracized for being closer to the center of the spectrum, rather than on the conservative side of the GOP.

Earlier this year, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) - who lost her 2010 primary to a tea party upstart but won re-election as a write-in candidate - said she regretted voting with Republicans to support a controversial religious conscience clause amendment offered by Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt that would have eliminated an Obama administration requirement that religious-affiliated organizations provide health care benefits for birth control and other family-planning services.

Murkowski also co-signed a June letter to Speaker John Boehner calling for the House to take up a Senate version of a bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

Nonetheless, Murkowski's voting record of may give some clues as to what leaders can expect from a possible Sen. Akin. When Murkowski overcame the historic and technical challenges of a write-in candidacy, cooler heads prevailed. She held on to her post as the top Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Despite the comity, Murkowski has not toed the party line nearly as much since the 2010 elections.

In 2010, she voted with the Republicans 83 percent of the time on party unity votes, compared with 71 percent in 2011, according to Congressional Quarterly's annual vote studies.

By contrast, Akin has been a reliable Republican vote in the House, voting with the party 99 percent of the time in 2010 and 97 percent in 2011.

When Murkowski launched her write-in bid after falling to conservative Joe Miller in the GOP primary, she lost her spot at the leadership table in the Senate.

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