Todd Akin Remains in the Background in Tampa

Former Rep. Mike Castle (right) said Missouri Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin should "give serious thought whether he should continue forward." (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

TAMPA, Fla. — Even as the talk in Tampa revolves around Mitt Romney and Tropical Storm Isaac, the Senate candidacy of Missouri Rep. Todd Akin (R) remains on the minds of prominent Republicans.

Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who also served as Republican National Committee chairman in the 1990s, conceded that the controversy surrounding Akin is a distraction for the Republicans, while former Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) reflected on how his 2010 Senate bid — and an easy GOP pickup — was derailed by a conservative primary challenger who never had a chance in the general election.

"I believe that obviously his comments were wrong, I think he has made apologies," Castle said today in an interview with Roll Call, referring to Akin's comments about rape. "But he’s also damaged his candidacy a great deal and perhaps affected Republicans across the country."

"I think he needs to give serious thought whether he should continue forward," Castle added. "Is the race winnable or it’s not? Is it better to substitute another candidate and does it impact negatively on other races, which I think is a concern of the Romney campaign and some others?"

Castle suggested that Akin's recent comments were worse than anything O'Donnell said in 2010.

"It just seemed much more cold-hearted, I think much more black and white than some other people who’ve taken similar positions," Castle said.

Barbour weighed in on Akin when he was asked by reporters how the Congressman's remarks might influence female voters. But instead of berating Akin, as much of the GOP establishment has done for the last week, Barbour expounded on Democratic efforts to influence the Missouri GOP primary.

"This guy won the nomination on a Democrat dirty trick," he said.

"The Todd Akin deal ... the Democrats are just giddy that there’s something else to talk about," he later added.

However, Akin is not the only troublesome distraction in politics right now, Barbour said. He continued to urge Romney to release more tax returns, although he acknowledged that he did not release tax returns during his own gubernatorial campaigns.

"I’m not talking about the morality or the correctness or propriety of giving your tax returns," Barbour said. "But it is a distraction away from the real issue, which is Obama’s record, his policies and why they have failed and what Romney would do different to succeed."