This morning’s Wall Street Journal details how Representative Todd Akin—who at midsummer lead incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill by ten points, and is now down by perhaps that much—has contracted his campaign and “retreated deeper into the protection of [his] evangelical base.” Theoretically, all Akin ever had to do was win the vote of Missouri’s Republicans, who will almost definitely give the state’s electoral votes to Mitt Romney in November. Instead, he is spending his time talking almost exclusively to his hard-right faithful:

In a 13-minute speech at a campaign stop this week, Missouri’s Republican senatorial candidate, Rep. Todd Akin, never mentioned jobs or the economy. He did, however, mention God—31 times. “God is the start of it all,” Mr. Akin told about 150 attendees at the “Missouri Women Standing with Todd Akin” rally Monday afternoon.

With the party establishment distancing itself from the congressman, Mr. Akin has favored churches for events, relied on home-schoolers for volunteers and filled parking lots with cars bearing bumper stickers trumpeting creationism.

In an interview, Mr. Akin said he is fighting for something bigger than jobs, and he thinks that message will resonate broadly. “The economy is a big problem, but it speaks to a bigger problem, and that is you and I are losing our freedom,” he said.

In fact, just about every aspect of Akin’s campaign has shriveled. The only politicians that will visit the state to support him are niche stars like Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee.

His fundraising is similarly anemic. While McCaskill raised $6 million in the past three months, in addition to the $3 million in ad time her campaign has already purchased, Akin won’t even disclose what he raised until the absolute last minute, the FEC deadline for disclosure, which is late tomorrow afternoon—a Friday. All his campaign has said is that he raised $1 million from small donors online. And that might be close to the total number. The national party and big outside money groups have all stayed away from Akin, standing by their August pledge to do so.

I reported last week that the National Federation of Independent Business’s 501(c)(4) backed Akin, but only with $10,000 towards a one-time mailer. Freedom’s Defense Fund, run by conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi, has kicked in a paltry $159,619 since announcing its support, according to FEC records. The Susan B. Anthony List said it would stand by Akin—and has done so with a whopping $508 spent on mailings. The Senate Conservatives Fund, run by Senator Jim DeMint, made a much-ballyhooed endorsement of Akin in September—but so far has spent only $54,274, exclusively to rent Akin’s e-mail list.

Meanwhile, McCaskill’s campaign has relentlessly pummeled Akin for being too extreme for the state—an idea he’s perhaps endorsing by staying close to his hard-right, evangelical home. Her campaign initiated a campaign called “35 Days, 35 Ways,” last month, sending out one crazy Akin statement per day up until the election. They have plently. Among my favorites so far:

  • Akin Co-Sponsored Bill to Redefine Rape

  • Akin Was One of 14 in Congress to Vote Against National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

  • Akin Was One of Only 11 Members Who Opposed Acknowledging the Positive Impact of Breakfast

  • Akin Was In Small Minority to Vote Against Creating the National Sex Offender Registry

  • Akin Questioned Spousal Rape Law

  • Akin Called For End To Federal Student Loans, Compared Government Involvement To “Stage Three Cancer”

  • Akin Said 28 Year Old With No Insurance And Cancer Would Have To Deal With “Consequences From [His] Decisions.”

  • Akin Compared Children’s Health Insurance to the Titanic

But the most important shrinkage has been in the polls. Nate Silver gives McCaskill an 82.8 percent chance of winning, and a McCaskill internal poll this week showed her up by fourteen points, 52–38 percent. (Perhaps not incidentally, white evangelical Christians made up 38 percent of the Missouri vote in 2008). 

Rasmussen, which generally has a Republican lean, polled the race and found Akin down by six this month, though within the margin of error. But there really shouldn’t be much doubt—one need only consider that the NRSC is remaining out. If they thought Akin could win, they’d jump in—they’ve said as much. And think about Akin’s strategy here of talking only to his devout base, and nothing more: it seems less like he’s running for Senate, and more like he’s setting up his post-political career.

Read George Zornick’s report on the NFIB’s turnaround on the “legitamite rape” congressman.

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