Akin Set to Stay in Senate Race With Gingrich Support
Missouri Republican Todd Akin is moving forward with his go-it-alone U.S. Senate bid, which got a little less lonely when former Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich raised money for him in suburban St. Louis.
Akin has shown no signs that he’ll give in to Republican leaders’ urging that he abandon efforts to unseat Senator Claire McCaskill, a first-term Democrat. Today is the last day he could get a court order to withdraw.
Instead, Akin said yesterday at a campaign event with Gingrich that he anticipates national Republican groups will resume their support of his candidacy in the days before the election.
“I think the money’s going to be coming,” Akin said, adding that the funds he needs to compete with McCaskill “can come from a lot of different sources.”
After Akin said in an Aug. 19 television interview that “legitimate rape” rarely results in pregnancy, the National Republican Senatorial Committee 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. Party leaders, including presidential nominee Mitt Romney, pressured Akin to drop his Senate bid.
Akin is “seriously kidding himself” if he thinks the groups will reverse course, said Jennifer Duffy, who tracks Senate races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. Opening national coffers to Akin would make other Republican candidates vulnerable to Democratic attempts to tie them to Akin’s remarks, Duffy said.
“It’s bigger than Akin,” she said. “They can’t go rescue Akin at the expense of other candidates.” Duffy said McCaskill may be waiting until after today’s deadline to begin her sharpest attacks against Akin.
In a possible sign of things to come, McCaskill has begun airing a television ad citing Akin “in his own words.” It begins by quoting Akin as having said in March 2011 on C-SPAN regarding the Social Security system: “I don’t like it.” The ad concludes with his rape remark last month and asks, “What will he say next?”
In a fundraising appeal e-mailed to supporters today, Akin said he’s “not going anywhere” following pressure from “party bosses and Washington insiders.”
Besides former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Gingrich is the only Republican of national stature backing Akin. Gingrich said yesterday that he was endorsing Akin, 65, because a Republican victory in Missouri “is a key to winning control of the Senate” and urged other Republicans to follow his lead.
“This will come down to a very simple question: Do you want to keep Harry Reid as the majority leader?” Gingrich said at a campaign event in Kirkwood, a St. Louis suburb. Reid is a Nevada Democrat. Republicans have been counting on McCaskill’s seat as one of four they must pick up to win control of the Senate in the Nov. 6 election.
Gingrich, a former House speaker who also headlined a $500- a-plate fundraiser for Akin at an Italian restaurant that drew about 45 people, said other Republicans must “in good conscience” follow his lead and back Akin.
“If Todd and the people of Missouri prove it’s a close race, what’s the moral case for not backing the Republican nominee?” the former speaker said. “My expectation would be that in the crunch, in October, Governor Romney is going to be for the entire ticket, and he’s going to be for Todd Akin.”
‘Avalanche of Money’
Gingrich predicted that by mid-October Republicans will support Akin’s effort and that McCaskill will spend “an avalanche of money” on the race after today’s deadline for him to exit the race.
In a Sept. 20 interview, NRSC Chairman John Cornyn of Texas said the campaign committee wouldn’t provide backing to Akin under any circumstances.
Donna Hayes, a 53-year-old Wildwood, Missouri, resident who attended yesterday’s fundraiser, said she was “extremely frustrated” that national Republican groups were withholding money from Akin, who is beginning a statewide bus tour today.
“Their pulling the funding from this campaign was more of a knee-jerk reaction of what would appear popular instead of sitting down and thinking it out,” Hayes said.
In protest, Hayes said she and her husband decided not to donate to the Republican National Committee for this election.
‘Deciding for Us’
“They are deciding for us who should run,” she said.
Following Akin’s comments on rape, McCaskill moved ahead of the Republican House member in polls although the race has tightened since then. Earlier in the year, she consistently trailed Akin and two other potential Republican opponents in polls.
A St. Louis Post-Dispatch/Mason-Dixon poll conducted Aug. 22-23 showed McCaskill with a 9 percentage-point lead. A Public Policy Polling survey conducted Aug. 28-29 showed the race was virtually tied, with Akin trailing McCaskill by one percentage point.
McCaskill, who has no public events scheduled this week, yesterday posted a web video accusing Akin of embracing a ban on congressionally directed spending known as earmarks to try to win the financial backing of the Senate Conservatives Fund. The political action committee is affiliated with Senator Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican and co-founder of the Senate Tea Party Caucus.
Duffy said Gingrich’s endorsement probably won’t woo undecided voters to Akin’s side, especially with McCaskill’s cash advantage.
“If a voter was going to be swayed by a Gingrich endorsement they were probably already with Akin,” she said. “Akin’s problem is money.”
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