Todd Akin is regaining Republican support for his bid to oust Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri after refusing to quit the race over his remark that “legitimate rape” rarely causes pregnancy.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee endorsed him yesterday, joining four other Republicans. Last month, NRSC Chairman John Cornyn of Texas, presidential nominee Mitt Romney and other party leaders called on Akin to leave the race after his comment on rape in an Aug. 19 television interview.
Akin, 65, a six-term Republican congressman, apologized for the comment while refusing to end his Senate candidacy. Sept. 25 was the last day he could seek a court order to have his name removed from the Nov. 6 ballot.
The NRSC’s executive director, Rob Jesmer, backed Akin in an e-mailed statement.
“There is no question that for Missourians who believe we need to stop the reckless Washington spending, rein in the role of government in people’s lives, and finally focus on growing jobs in this country that Todd Akin is a far more preferable candidate than liberal Senator Claire McCaskill,” Jesmer said.
“As with every Republican Senate candidate, we hope Todd Akin wins in November and we will continue to monitor this race closely in the days ahead,” Jesmer said.
Brian Walsh, an NRSC spokesman, declined to say whether the group was re-evaluating its decision not to contribute money to Akin’s campaign. Cornyn said Sept. 20 there was no way the campaign committee would reconsider its decision not to put money into the race as long as Akin is the Republican nominee.
Akin said in an interview yesterday that he “will continue to be hopeful” the NRSC will put money in the race.
“We believe that when they start taking a look at places where they can invest money and where they can expect to win seats, that they will take a good look at this seat and want to join us,” he said.
Four other Republicans endorsed Akin this week: Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, and two former presidential candidates: Rick Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, and ex-U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Today, a political action committee led by DeMint endorsed Akin and urged its members to contribute to his campaign. The Senate Conservatives Fund surveyed members by e-mail this week on whether it should support Akin, and it said today that 93 percent of 8,050 responses were in favor.
DeMint’s campaign group set an initial goal of raising $100,000 for Akin’s campaign by Sept. 30, Matt Hoskins, the group’s executive director, said in an e-mail today.
“The Republican establishment in Washington still refuses to lift a finger” on his behalf, Hoskins wrote. “That’s why the grassroots must rise up and fight back.”
The organization helped elect five Republican Senate candidates backed by the anti-tax Tea Party movement in 2010 and has endorsed Republican candidates in eight races this year.
DeMint and Santorum will campaign with Akin in Missouri, the candidate told supporters yesterday at a campaign event in Rolla.
“We’re getting contributions from Washington state all the way to Maine,” Akin told about 50 supporters who gathered at a local Republican headquarters.
Counting on Missouri
Party leaders have been counting on Missouri, a Republican-leaning state where Romney is leading in polls in his race against President Barack Obama, as one of four seats they need to gain to assume control of the Senate. Democrats control the chamber 53-47.
After Akin’s Aug. 19 interview, the NRSC and Crossroads GPS, a nonprofit group that former George W. Bush political adviser Karl Rove helped create, said they wouldn’t spend money on the contest with Akin as the nominee.
Like Romney, who called Akin’s remark “outrageous,” Blunt was among those who publicly called on him last month to leave the race.
“Congressman Akin and I don’t agree on everything, but he and I agree the Senate majority must change,” Blunt said in an e-mailed statement. “I’ll be working for the Republican ticket in Missouri, and that includes Todd Akin.”
DeMint and Santorum, in a joint statement, called Akin a “principled conservative who is committed to winning and fighting for freedom in the U.S. Senate.”
“If Republicans are to win back the Senate and stop President Obama’s liberal agenda, we must defeat Senator Claire McCaskill in Missouri,” they said.
Gingrich appeared at a Sept. 24 Akin fundraiser in a St. Louis suburb and said it would be “historically irrational” for Republicans to sideline themselves from the race.
Caitlin Legacki, a McCaskill spokeswoman, said the endorsements don’t change the fact that Romney, vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan and “droves of other Republicans didn’t support Todd Akin and asked him to step down.”
“You can tell these endorsements are enthusiastic just by the way these Republicans waited until they were stuck with Todd Akin to finally support him,” Legacki said in an e-mail.
One Republican who called on Akin to step aside in August, former Missouri Senator John Danforth, was quoted yesterday as saying he “cannot support” the candidate.
“The problem with Akin is he taints the party,” Danforth told reporters in Columbia, Missouri, according to PoliticMo, a website that tracks state politics. “That’s why I think it is important to disassociate the party with him,” PoliticMo quoted Danforth as saying.