Hours after the deadline passed for Republican Rep. Todd Akin to drop out of the Missouri Senate race against Sen. Claire McCaskill, the Show-Me State’s current GOP Senator announced that he would back Akin’s candidacy.
“From Governor Romney to the county courthouse, I'll be working for the Republican ticket in Missouri, and that includes Todd Akin," Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said in a statement issued late Tuesday. Blunt said that despite some policy disagreements, “he and I agree the Senate majority must change."
Akin faced a concerted push from Republicans, including presidential nominee Mitt Romney, to drop out of the Senate race after winning the nomination because of concerns that he would have no chance to prevail in November, in what could be a critical contest for GOP efforts to retake the Senate.
Knowing that Akin is her opponent, McCaskill is going on offense over much-criticized comments Akin made about “legitimate” rape, launching new advertisements on that and other subjects this week.
“You have to remember, this is someone who has always operated on the fringe of his party,” McCaskill said Tuesday night on MSNBC, before adding that she did not think Missouri voters were all that familiar with his record.
“I think they will realize that this is not who they want speaking for them in the United States Senate,” she said.
McCaskill had been viewed as among the most vulnerable Democrats this cycle, but insiders in both parties – in Missouri and at the national level — say Akin is a weak general election candidate. The National Republican Senatorial Committee and GOP-aligned outside groups, such as American Crossroads, say they will stay out of the race.
Blunt has been a fixture in the Republican establishment, having served in leadership in the House before being elected to the Senate in 2010. When GOP leaders tried to push Akin out of the race, Blunt signed on to a joint statement with four former Missouri Republican Senators decrying his comments.
“The issues at stake are too big, and this election is simply too important. The right decision is to step aside,” Blunt and the former Senators said then.
While Blunt’s latest comments appear to have no effect on the involvement of the national party apparatus, it does signal that at the end of the day, many Republicans who were critical of his comments would still prefer Akin win the seat.
Roll Call moved the Missouri Senate race from Tossup to Leans Democratic earlier in the day.