The Senate Conservatives Fund, led by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), sent out a survey to its members today to gauge support from its base for Missouri's embattled Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin.
The email from SCF Executive Director Matt Hoskins to the majority of the group's 100,000 donating members comes on the last day for Akin to legally drop out of the race, as party leaders had requested he do.
"I'm writing to get your opinion on whether the Senate Conservatives Fund should support Congressman Todd Akin now that he is officially the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri and is polling within single digits of his Democratic opponent," Hoskins wrote in the email. "The Senate Conservatives Fund has remained neutral, but circumstances have changed in two important ways that require us to take another look."
"Make no mistake, winning won't be easy," the email continued. "Akin has been attacked on all sides and he'll be attacked even more in the coming weeks. But this race could determine control of the Senate, and if Akin wins one thing is for sure - he won't owe the establishment a thing. We'll have another true conservative in the Senate who is more interested in joining the fight than the club."
The National Republican Senatorial Committee and Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS have both said they will not put money into Missouri if Akin is still the party's nominee. Both dropped their support of Akin after he was roundly criticized for saying erroneously that if a woman is subject to a "legitimate rape," her body would be able to prevent a pregnancy. He made the remarks as he was discussing his opposition to legalized abortion in all instances, including rape and incest. But Akin rejected the pressure from those in his party, and despite his rogue-like campaign, he is still polling close to Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.
Akin and Demint's camps have been in conversation about the Missouri Republican's policy positions, especially on the issue of earmarks, which Akin recently supported but has had to renounce to court DeMint.
In July, before Missouri's primary - in which the SCF did not endorse a candidate - Hoskins questioned Akin's credentials on spending and earmarks.
"The strategy behind these ads is completely transparent. Claire McCaskill is trying to help Todd Akin win the Republican primary because she knows he's the weakest candidate in the field," Hoskins told Politico. "Akin isn't weak because he's too conservative. He's weak because he's too liberal on spending and earmarks."
The group expects thousands of people to respond to its survey and likely will make a decision on whether to get involved in the race in the coming days. DeMint and his staff likely would need to see a significant number of pledges in order to step into in a race that has become a thorn in the GOP establishment's side and a threat to the party's takeover of the Senate.
"The race in Missouri appears to still be winnable. The most recent Rasmussen poll shows Todd Akin trailing McCaskill by just 6 points. Congressman Akin may still be able to win this race even after all of the attacks from the liberal media and the Republican establishment," the SCF email today said. "Knowing that Todd Akin will face Claire McCaskill in November and the race could decide control of the Senate, should the Senate Conservatives Fund endorse Akin and help him raise the support he needs to win?"
Akin recently got a boost from former Speaker and former presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, who attended a fundraiser for the embattled candidate this week.q
For its part, the McCaskill campaign has been using Akin's sudden change of heart on earmarks against him. McCaskill has been one of the most vocal Democratic opponents on earmarks, and several sources indicated it was one of her bigger points of contrast to Akin that would appeal to independent voters.
"Between Todd Akin's inappropriate comments and the fact that he secured $31 million in pork-barrel spending for his campaign donors, a pretty clear picture begins to emerge," McCaskill campaign spokesman Erik Dorey said in a statement Monday. "During his 12 years in Congress, Todd Akin repeatedly funneled taxpayer dollars to his campaign donors, which is exactly the kind of Washington behavior that led Claire to fight for an earmark ban."