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

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

By Scott Conroy - September 29, 2012


Trapped in the depths of political purgatory last month following his ill-advised comments about "legitimate rape," Rep. Todd Akin was deluged daily with pleas from fellow Republicans that he exit the Missouri race for U.S. Senate.

His comments were so egregiously off-base, they insisted, that his hopes of defeating incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill had shifted from nearly guaranteed to utterly hopeless.

Akin shrugged it all off, even ignoring Karl Rove’s jesting homicidal threat made during a private meeting with GOP donors.

The Show Me State congressman stubbornly insisted that with control of the Senate on the line, his former allies on the right would rejoin his cause once the dust settled -- and that he would still be in the thick of the race when it mattered most.

It appears Akin was right.

With Tuesday’s final deadline for him to drop out having come and gone, the six-term lawmaker has begun racking up endorsements from prominent national conservatives including Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint.

Additionally, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) has indicated it might funnel money into his campaign, despite once having tried to force him to bow out.

Akin spokesperson Rick Tyler predicted that the NRSC would soon be fully back on board.

“They’re running out of plausible options to win the Senate without Missouri,” Tyler said of the Republican committee that funds Senate candidates. “This is pragmatic politics. Akin has been able to stay competitive here all on our own. He’s got a very good chance. In fact, I would say this is now the easiest pickup race that they have.”

And after besieging Akin with criticism for weeks on end and accusing him of putting his own ambition over his party, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in an interview Thursday with RCP that Akin was “absolutely” preferable to McCaskill.

“That’s a given, and as chairman of the party, I have an obligation to make sure we win as many seats in the Senate as possible,” Priebus said. “. . . And our obligation manifests itself in the ground operation and making sure as many Republicans turn out to the polls as possible.”

In addition to national Republicans’ change of heart, the shift is also occurring among prominent members of his state party.

On Friday, former Missouri senator and governor Kit Bond joined current Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt in endorsing the GOP challenger, citing as part of their rationale “the national stakes in this election.”

According to Jeff Smith, a Democratic former state senator, Bond’s endorsement could be critical in signaling to moderate, business-minded state Republicans that the time has come to rally behind Akin.

“As I predicted when Rep. Todd Akin’s ignorant comments first broke, the anti-gambling zealot was going to call the party’s bluff,” Smith wrote in Politico. “And despite the fact that the Republican Party’s reversal is an embarrassing sign of the party’s captivity to its lunatic fringe, yes, East Coast establishment, he could actually win.”

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

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