It’s official—at 5 pm yesterday, Representative Todd Akin’s name was cemented on the ballot in Missouri for this fall’s Senate race. During a defiant press conference Tuesday afternoon in which he compared himself to Harry Truman, Akin said he would abide by the Republican primary results. “The decision was made by the voters of the state of Missouri,” he said.
Now that Akin is the GOP’s only chance to pick up a crucial Senate seat in Missouri, will the party and it’s major outside groups—Crossroads GPS, the Club for Growth, the US Chamber of Commerce and others—return to Akin’s side, as many cynics predicted a month ago?
Each of those groups reaffirmed yesterday that they will not back Akin, and I believe them, for several reasons. The first is a matter of branding. The national party and the major outside organizations are going to be spending heavily in many crucial races across the country. Democrats are already eager to tie Akin to other congressional candidates and the GOP presidential ticket, and a reversal by the NRSC and the outside players would provide a common denominator between Akin and other candidates. GOP Senate hopefuls like Josh Mandel and Connie Mack surely don’t want their opponents saying that the same groups attacking them are also trying to get Todd Akin into the Senate.
The second is a matter of strategy—Akin probably can’t win. Some polls show a tied contest, but McCaskill and her allies have barely laid a glove on Akin over his “legitimate rape” remark and other extreme positions on the premise that burying Akin right away might chase him from the race while he could still get off the ballot.
Now, with the deadline passed, the knives are out: literally within an hour of the withdrawal deadline, McCaskill released a television ad blasting Akin for the rape comments and asking “What will he say next?” National Democrats immediately unleashed an oppo-dump of crazy Akin comments, like when he insisted the National Defense Authorization Act legalized bestiality.
Republican officials told reporters this week point-blank they did not believe the polls would hold after McCaskill and her allies released the post–September 25 barrage of attacks, and they’re probably right. Whether the NRSC and Karl Rove would back Akin if they believed he had a chance to win is an interesting question—but a largely academic one.