Akin Calls GOP's Bluff, But Can He Win?

By Scott Conroy - September 29, 2012

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Akin remains slightly behind McCaskill in most recent polls (the RCP Average has her ahead by 5.3 points), but his campaign says its internal polling shows him in the lead.

Though Akin’s controversial comments and hard-right stance on social issues may have effectively ended his bid in other areas of the country, his aides say they have not disqualified him in Missouri, a state that has trended hard to the right in recent years.

After all, before last month, Akin was widely viewed as a near shoe-in to defeat McCaskill, who aligned herself early on with President Obama.

“This state is not Obama-friendly, and she’s just so close to Obama that it’s just killing her -- it’s like an anchor around her ankle,” said one Republican operative with close ties to the Akin campaign. Akin “raised a ton of cash and stayed up on TV. When McCaskill should’ve pulled ahead by 15 to 20 points, he kept it close.”

Akin’s candidacy seems poised to become a rallying cry for many prominent conservatives eager to buck the GOP establishment for what they see as imposing its will on rank-and-file party members.

Plans are in the works for Santorum and DeMint to make a joint campaign appearance on Akin’s behalf, and Gingrich and Mike Huckabee are also expected in Missouri before Election Day, according to an Akin aide.

The candidate himself is scheduled to host a trio of Washington, D.C., fundraisers next week -- events that will double as opportunities to woo back establishment Republicans.

But for all of his political resilience, Akin’s proclivity for shooting himself in the foot appeared to re-emerge Thursday when he told reporters that McCaskill’s demeanor during their recent debate was not as “ladylike” as it was in her 2006 debates against Jim Talent.

McCaskill’s hopes for being re-elected appear to hinge on the premise that Akin’s appeal to his party’s base will not make up for a mass exodus of centrist voters.

Her campaign this week released a TV advertisement highlighting Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments. And in an interview Friday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” McCaskill labeled him a “fringe” candidate, delivering a memorable line to hammer home the point.

“This is somebody who kind of makes Michele Bachmann look like a hippie," she said.

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Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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