GOP Headache Grows as Todd Akin Digs In
In the last two days, nearly every Republican of stature has either condemned Missouri Rep. Todd Akin’s (R) recent statements on rape or outright called for his withdrawal from his race against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D).
And yet, Akin reiterated this afternoon that he will not leave the Senate race.
“We are going to continue with this race for the U.S. Senate. We’ve given it a lot of thought and the first thing we felt we had to do was we had offended some people,” he said on Mike Huckabee’s radio show.
“We tried to respond to that and let people know that we didn’t mean … to take in any way rape [as] anything less than very very seriously,” Akin added.
Senate GOP leaders responded to his comments with an expression of no confidence in him and his campaign.
“In his heart of hearts, I’m certain that he is sincerely sorry for what he said but in this instance, when the future of our country is at stake, sorry is not sufficient,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said in a statement.
“To continue serving his country in the honorable way he has served throughout his career, it is time for Congressman Akin to step aside,” McConnell added.
Much more than just a single Senate seat is at stake in the controversy. The Missouri seat is integral to Republican efforts to capture control of the Senate.
Furthermore, the Akin frenzy has been a distraction that has put presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), on the defensive. It has also been a distraction to the build-up of the Republican National Convention next week.
Minutes after Akin’s radio interview with Huckabee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee issued 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,” NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh said in the statement.
Walsh also noted “some of the only voices not calling for Congressman Akin to do the right thing and step aside are Claire McCaskill and the leaders of the pro-abortion movement.”
Despite the public threats to withhold money and support for Akin, or perhaps because of them, the NRSC does not plan to drop its $5 million ad reservation in Missouri anytime soon. The reservation, made in April, will remain on hold in the hopes that Akin steps down by the final deadline of Sept. 25 and the ad time can be used to support a new GOP candidate. A Republican source indicated that if that deadline passes and Akin is still the nominee, the NRSC will drop the ad buy entirely.
But Akin has remained resolute.
“I believe we can win this,” he said in the Huckabee interview.
He added that grass-roots support behind him has the capacity to compensate for the loss of national GOP funds.
“What we’re seeing right now is a tremendous outpouring of support from a whole lot of just regular small people,” he said in the interview. “They’re not the big party people and they’re not the guys that can write the million-dollar checks.”
As both the GOP establishment and some in the tea party have panicked over the controversy, McCaskill has been notably careful in her comments. National Democratic strategists have been all but silent on the matter.
The NRSC’s tone and aggression with him is unusual and has not been the committee’s modus operandi this cycle. The committee has taken a largely hands-off approach to candidate selection.
And it is not just party leaders who have castigated Akin. Rank-and-file Republicans nationwide have not been able to draft press releases quickly enough to condemn Akin. Two of the most commonly used words are “outrageous” and “offensive.”
Earlier this afternoon, Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt and former Missouri Sens. John Ashcroft, Kit Bond and John Danforth, all Republicans, called for Akin to withdraw.
Akin’s decision to stay in the race coincides with the morning release of a new television advertisement from the Akin campaign. Akin is using about $190,000 this week to run the ad across the state, banking on the forgiveness of voters even if he’s lost that battle with establishment Republicans.
“Rape is an evil act. I used the wrong words in the wrong way, and for that I apologize,” he says in the ad. He also acknowledged that “rape can lead to pregnancy.”