Are Republicans Going To Sacrifice The Senate To Rally Around Todd Akin?

Now that he is on the ballot for good, Republicans seem to be giving Todd Akin a second look. That seems unwise.

When Todd Akin made his despicable and ignorant comments about rape in August, Republicans were quick to abandon him in an effort to force him to get out of the race in favor of a more acceptable nominee. It was an understandable reaction given the fact that Claire McCaskill had been considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the Senate for the 2012 cycle for quite some time and Akin’s comments were so outrageous that it was clear that he had placed a winnable seat in jeopardy to say the very least. In response to Akin’s comments, prominent national Republicans urged him to drop out, as did every single living former Missouri Republican Senator, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Republican National Committee said they would not assist Akin’s campaign in any way. The initial August deadline that would have allowed the state party to replace Akin on the ballot easily passed and Akin refused to drop off the ballot, as did yesterday’s final deadline for a judicially approved withdrawal and replacement strategy. In between that time, the polls showed McCaskill taking a lead, but not one that is prohibitive to a possible Akin victory in November.

Now that the final deadline has passed, we’ve seen signs of some Republicans coming back to Akin’s corner. Newt Gingrich was one of the first, but he has been joined now by Jim DeMint and Rick Santorum, and even Senator Roy Blunt, who had previously called on Akin to drop out. Now, the NRSC, which had previously indicated it would not provide any funds to Akin, is hinting that it is reconsidering its position:

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, which essentially dropped Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., as a national party-approved candidate last month after his comments about “legitimate rape,” sharply shifted its position on Wednesday, a day after the deadline for him to withdraw from the ballot had passed.

In a statement, Executive Director Rob Jesmer said that the committee hopes “Todd Akin wins in November, and we will continue to monitor this race closely in the days ahead.

“There is no question that for Missourians who believe we need to stop the reckless Washingtonspending, 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 stated.

David Weigel comments:

“Monitor this race closely” is Washington-speak for “maybe spend money on it.” Basically, Republicans bluffed and threatened Akin with a total cut-off because they wanted to replace him with a similar but less unpopular candidate. Akin, who owed national Republicans absolutely nothing — even Sarah Palin endorsed somebody else! — called the bluff. Now that the national spotlight has swung away, Republicans are looking for the least embarrassing way to help out Akin again, because it’s tough to lose Missouri and win the Senate. Today’s double-team Akin endorsement from Rick Santorum and Jim DeMint was part of that. So was Newt Gingrich’s campaign swing. The margin between Akin and Claire McCaskill is only as big as a $500,000 Super PAC check from Foster Friess or Sheldon Adelson.

Here’s the thing, though. If the GOP starts rallying around Akin after having so openly and vehemently repudiating him, you can bet the Democrats are going to take advantage of it not only in Missouri, but in other parts of the country. By whatever means necessary, Democratic candidates and the SuperPACs that support them are going to find a way to make sure voters are aware that a potential Republican majority in the Senate could include the guy who made the “legitimate rape” remark. Indeed, even without Todd Akin, I would say that the smartest thing that a Democratic Senate candidate in a close race with a Republican in a state that is typically Democratic (i.e., Connecticut and Massachusetts) could do is spend October hammering the message that voting for their opponent could potentially mean that Republicans like Jim DeMint and Todd Akin have control of the Senate. I could see the same argument working here in Virginia, especially among the suburban female voters in Northern Virginia.

That’s one reason I find even the thought of the GOP backtracking on the denunciation of Akin puzzling. Leaving ideology aside, pure power politics would suggest to me that it would be in the best interests of the party to sacrifice the guy in favor of living to fight another day. For one thing, there are several other paths to a 51 seat majority that the party could pursue.  For another, even if the GOP falls short this year, they’re going to have a fairly good shot at it in 2014. So, why sacrifice all of that for the sake of a guy who, in the end, is probably going to lose to a Democrat that should have been easily beatable while at the same time potentially causing harm to candidates that have a reasonable chance of victory?

I just don’t get it.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Congress, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. legion says:

    Win or lose in MO, the Senate is probably already out of reach for the GOP. The real question now is whether the perfect storm of a historically-uninspiring candidate driving GOP voters to stay home combined with a platform that openly antagonistic to a huge majority of Americans and despicable candidates up & down the ticket has a shot at giving Dems control of the House as well…

  2. The Monster says:

    I’m already getting emails from the Democratic Party saying “don’t let Todd Akin and the Republicans take control of the Senate.” Those emails will continue to go out, as will the commercials that attempt to tie every Republican candidate to those comments, no matter what those candidates do.

    It seems to me the Republicans have three choices:
    1. Don’t offer Akin any help at all, and GUARANTEE they don’t gain control over the Senate.
    2. Don’t make joint campaign appearances, but let money from the party (not from identifiable candidates) go to pay to help him campaign against McCaskill.
    3. Go all in, and make those appearances at rallies too. That makes it easy for an opponent to tie you to a guy if you’re standing with him and signs that say “Akin for Senate” all around you.

    I think they’re going to do Option 2, and when opponents try to say “you’re just like Todd Akin”, the candidates can say “that’s ridiculous. I’m on record saying I disagree with those remarks. More importantly, my opponent has backed the Democrat party bosses who said stupid things like ‘we have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it’.”

  3. Jc says:

    Yes, because when you have doubts about a fellow republican in your head during an election year, you can just shut those thoughts down

  4. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Meh. All politics is local. A Senate contest in State A has extremely little to no bearing whatsoever on a Senate contest in State B. Hell, in ’10 the GOP was saddled with the Angle, Buck, DioGuardi, Miller/Murkowski and O’Donnell fiascos. But none of them prevented from being elected the likes of Rubio, Kirk, Coats, Toomey, Johnson, Blunt, Boozman, Portman.

    Akin stepping on his dick and then staying the contest simply means that what was a mortal lock for the GOP now at best is a maybe, depending upon whether and to what extent MO voters have tuned out the liberal media. But it’s quite doubtful Akin will matter anywhere other than in MO proper. If Scott Brown falls short, e.g., it’ll be because he’s running in Massachusetts against a well-funded challenger, not because of Akin. If George Allen falls short it’ll be because he’s running against a top-tier candidate in a competitive swing state. So on, so forth.

    That all said, certainly if Akin crashes and burns and if the GOP winds up falling one seat short then, yeah, Akin will have cost them the Senate. But we’ve seen that movie before. It’s par for the course. Hell, go back and peruse the Senate contests in ’00. In that election Mel Carnahan’s corpse cost the GOP an outright majority. Then you also had the Maria Cantwell- Slade Gorton fiasco. Cantwell that year “won” her seat by the margin of dead Indians who voted against Gorton. There was the Al Franken fiasco in ’08. The Ted Stevens fiasco. The Torricelli-Lautenberg late switch. Etc., etc. It all goes with the territory.

  5. Me Me Me says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: “Meh. All politics is local. A Senate contest in State A has extremely little to no bearing whatsoever on a Senate contest in State B. ”

    Not to voters with ladyparts in this instance. And sadly for your side, you can count on 9-10 million more women than men voting nationally.

  6. Nikki says:

    Eh. Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas.

  7. PD Shaw says:

    I stand by my prediction that Aiken will win, but he made it unnecessarily close. Missouri is probably more pro-life than its swing status suggests, its Democrats are more populist and Catholicism is the largest denomination. The state elects legislatures with super-majorities voting to undermine Roe v. Wade.

    After the “legitimate rape” comment, Aiken toured radio doing the mea culpa thing and sounding like, an older, well-intentioned, but harmless, relative, not someone to hate like a Yankee might hate him after hearing his comments. His line is something like I screwed up for several minutes, McCaskill screwed up for several years. McCaskill appeared smart to push the issue hard for about 72 hours and go on the offensive on other issues like Veteran’s benefits that McCaskill opposed. She can’t win with abortion being the main issue, because her pro-choice position is against her. She can only win on economic populism, for which Obama is not entirely being helpful to her.

  8. Laurence Bachmann says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: Actually, no. If you were Tsarina Nicola, or followed the races in MA and WI you would be aware how offensive this man is to moderate and liberal women. Baldwin and Warren have done an excellent job of linking their opponents to the stink of The Party of Todd Akin. I agree with Doug–others are going to follow suit. They say Murphy launches his add next week.

  9. PD Shaw says:

    @Me Me Me: I think if you look closely on the polling there are a lot of women that are very anti-abortion. I believe women’s opinions have somwhat of a barbell curve, with most occupying the most “extreme” positions on either end and less in the middle. Men tend to have relatively more moderate positions in terms of either supporting choice with conditions, or opposing abortion, except in several circumstances.

    As I indicated before, I think Missouri is more opposed to abortion than national averages.

  10. An Interested Party says:

    I just don’t get it.

    Really? Perhaps you should, as their conservative purity is akin to your libertarian purity…

    …not someone to hate like a Yankee might hate him after hearing his comments.

    Ohhhh…so Southerners are more forgiving of comments that have to do with “legitimate” rape…hmm…if that’s true, it only adds to the negative stereotype of them…

  11. Me Me Me says:

    PD Shaw, you seem to be laboring under the delusion that the opposition to Akin stems from him being “pro-life”. So let me clue in you in: the opposition to Akin stems from him being an anti-woman, anti-science moron of the first degree.

  12. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    For another, even if the GOP falls short this year, they’re going to have a fairly good shot at it in 2014.

    The Democrats did great in 2006, and even better in 2008. How’d that trend serve them in 2010?

    “Wait ’til next year” is the cry of the loser.

  13. Laurence Bachmann says:

    @PD Shaw: look more closely at the polling for women and abortion–in instances of incest or rape 80% of women believe abortion is acceptable and should be available. And assume MO is more conservative–is it really good news when your onlyout of step with 75% of all female constituents?

  14. legion says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    “Wait ’til next year” is the cry of the loser.

    You will be reminded of this ad infinitum the day after the election.

  15. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @legion: Saying it after the election is bad enough. Saying it six weeks before? That’s putting the big L on your own forehead.

  16. anjin-san says:

    It’s no surprise to me he is drawing support from the party on a national level. This is what today’s GOP is.

  17. al-Ameda says:

    I stand by my prediction that Aiken will win, but he made it unnecessarily close. Missouri is probably more pro-life than its swing status suggests, its Democrats are more populist and Catholicism is the largest denomination. The state elects legislatures with super-majorities voting to undermine Roe v. Wade.

    I think you nailed it perfectly.

  18. Andre Kenji says:

    @Laurence Bachmann:

    look more closely at the polling for women and abortion–in instances of incest or rape 80% of women believe abortion is acceptable and should be available.

    People thinks that abortion should be available in instances of rape or incest, but they do not like the idea of abortion on demand and late term abortion is even less popular. People knows that there are several ways of not getting pregnant today. In fact, both the so called “pro-life” and “pro-choice” are extremely unpopular.

  19. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Me Me Me:

    the opposition to Akin stems from him being an anti-woman, anti-science moron of the first degree.

    Unfortunately, that is a fair description of the MO electorate. Jim Crow isn’t dead. He’s just hiding in the Ozarks.

  20. Fiona says:

    It’s not surprising given Akin could still win and Republicans need every win they can get. Plus, I doubt Gingrich, Santorum, and DeMint even understand what was so offensive about Akin’s comments. They’re part of the Neanderthal wing of the party.

  21. MBunge says:

    The underlying Akin issue isn’t with voters or the public. I mean, it’s frickin’ Missouri and the GOP was dumping on Akin long before they had any poll numbers to indicate he couldn’t win. The reason the reaction was so swift and severe was because of women within the Republican Party as politicians, staffers and activists and the broader Beltway community. Even those of them who are pro-life were almost certainly incensed at Akin’s comment and the stunning ignorance behind it. Their immediate furor may have cooled, but they’re not going to sit down and shut up if there’s a lot of support sent Akin’s way.

    Mike

  22. PD Shaw says:

    @Laurence Bachmann: “look more closely at the polling for women and abortion–in instances of incest or rape 80% of women believe abortion is acceptable.”

    Sounds about right, but my point would be that such a poll would show 85% of men would believe abortion is acceptable in those circumstances. Women are more likely to hold the view that it should not be acceptable.

    @An Interested Party: I wasn’t intending to use the term “Yankee” as synonymous with Northerner, but in its narrower sense as the New England puritan cultural strain, which reacts very negatively to violations of principles. Others like the Midlanders and Scots-Irish will not react that way, but take a more wholistic view.

  23. Barry says:

    @MBunge: “…Akin’s comment and the stunning ignorance behind it. ”

    Not ignorance, but malevolence.

  24. bk says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    depending upon whether and to what extent MO voters have tuned out the liberal media

    Yawn. Exactly who are you referring to?