Will Todd Akin Stay or Will He Go?
By Kevin Robinson in News on Aug 21, 2012 1:30PM
Today makes the second full day that Missouri GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin's comments about rape and abortion are national news. While Akin has said repeatedly that he has no intention of quitting the race, he's come under tremendous pressure from both national Republicans and conservative allies to drop out and clear the way for an alternative candidate.
Republican strategists fear that Akin's comments could cost the GOP the election in Missouri - National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn has suggested that Akin withdraw, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has called on him to exit the race, Karl Rove's Super PAC Crossroads GPS has pulled all of their advertising from the state, and even Mitt Romney, the party's presumptive presidential nominee has suggested that Akin quit. Only Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, who is facing Akin in a tough bid for re-election, seems to want Akin to stay in the race.
Under Missouri state law Akin has until 5 p.m. this evening to withdraw from the race in order for a state party nominating committee to select a replacement candidate. After that, it becomes progressively more complex for him to leave. But what if Akin stays? Right now the narrative in the mainstream media is that Akin is doomed if he doesn't exit the race, effectively handing the Democrats a win in a seat they should have lost.
Akin would be smart to turn off his cell phone and task his senior campaign staff with figuring out what scenarios would pull in the most funding if he were to stay in. As Talking Points Memo noted last night, he seems to have figured that out already. With at least sufficient funding to stay in the race through election day, Akin needs to call a press conference and double down on his original statement.
Dismissing the comments about the legitimacy of rape, Akin should emphasize that his was a consistent point of view, that as someone who believes abortion is the murder of a child, there are no circumstances where it is OK, and that he will not apologize for defending life. "I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child." Akin can easily expand on this point by posing the rhetorical question, if it is okay to kill the children of criminals, then at what age do you stop?
Akin needs to then pivot back to both the Republican establishment, who never wanted him in this race to begin with, and to McCaskill, who is unpopular in Missouri. He can portray her as a partisan hack who rubber stamped the Obama agenda of failed stimulus spending, increased regulation on small businesses and the hated Obamacare. He can attack the GOP establishment that tried to shut him out as more of the same spineless RINO borrow-and-spend compromisers that don't really want change in Washington. Only a true, pro-life conservative outsider can fix Washington. In this scenario, Akin contrasts himself against his party and McCaskill as the right man for the job.
Todd Akin has spent his political career working up to this point. Why would he back down now? His record indicates that he's clearly a hard-line conservative, at least on social issues. He should understand that the Republican Party can't out Democrat a Democrat, especially in Missouri. If he shifts the conversation back to a defense of life and then attacks McCaskill on the Obama agenda, assuming he's got the funding to stay competitive, Akin can change the debate in Missouri, and even the tone in the Republican Party. He's still likely to lose, but it will be a guns-blasting-in-a-blaze-of-glory loss, a respectable loss. He'll be a folk-hero in right wing circles. And if there's anything the Tea Party has taught us, it's that they don't mind breaking a few eggs to make an omelet.
We know today if Akin intends to quit for the good of the party. But that wouldn't be very Tea Party of him. Either way, Missouri is looking more like a Senate race to watch this fall.