The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) stated September 26 that it will support Rep. Todd Akin in the U.S. Senate race in Missouri, but did not say whether the committee would provide financial support for the controversial GOP candidate in his effort to unseat first-term Democrat Claire McCaskill. The committee had previously said it would withhold funding for Akin after the congressman said in an interview on a St. Louis television station that pregnancy rarely resulted from instances of "legitimate rape."
Various Republican Political Action Committees, including Karl Rove's American Crossroads "Super PAC," also vowed to withhold funding, as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and virtually the entire Republican establishment called for the GOP nominee to drop out of the race and allow Missouri Republicans to choose another candidate. Though many believed his campaign would fold from a shortage of funding, Akin has hung on, ignoring calls for his withdrawal. The statement of support by the National Republican Senatorial Committee came one day after the September 25 deadline for replacing a candidate who drops out and after Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum announced their support for Akin.
While some party activists have talked openly of supporting a write-in candidate, the NRSC statement made it clear that an Akin victory is the only realistic alternative to another six years of McCaskill in the Senate.
"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 Sen. Claire McCaskill," NRSC executive director Rob 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."
Asked whether it would spend money on the effort to elect Akin, the committee declined comment, the Washington Post reported.
Akin's campaign has now been endorsed by Santorum's Patriot Voices PAC. DeMint's PAC, the Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF), is believed to be leaning heavily toward supporting Akin, but has not yet done so. DeMint's announcement yesterday was his own endorsement and not that of his PAC. But a recent e-mail to SCF members from Executive Director Matt Hoskins gave the appearance of support for Akin. "The race in Missouri appears to still be winnable," Hoskins wrote. "Circumstances have changed in two important ways," he later explained to ABC News, noting that "the deadline has passed. He is the Republican candidate, he will be on the ballot. And the choice is between him and Claire McCaskill."
"We support Todd Akin and hope freedom-loving Americans in Missouri and around the country will join us so we can save our country from fiscal collapse," DeMint and Santorum said in a joint statement. The expected endorsement and financial support of the SCF would offer significant fundraising help to Akin in what remains an uphill battle to defeat McCaskill. The Missouri Democrat was considered vulnerable in this year's race, due in part to her vote in favor of the controversial Affordable Patient Care Act (ObamaCare), and Republicans nationally saw Missouri as an important link in a hoped-for chain of victories to bring the Senate back into Republican control. Democrats won majorities in both houses of Congress in 2006, but Republicans won control of the House again in the 2010 elections.
But the furor over Akin's "legitimate rape" comment, made shortly after he won a three-way Republican primary, sent the candidate's poll numbers plummeting and made McCaskill the favorite in the race. Akin has enjoyed something of a comeback since then, cutting into a nine-point lead for McCaskill in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch poll taken shortly after Akin's controversial comment. A mid-September averaging of three recent polls (Rasmussen Reports, Public Policy Polling and Post-Dispatch/Mason-Dixon) by Real Clear Politics showed McCaskill with a lead of 5.3 percentage points.
Democrats are now warning, and Republicans are hoping, that Akin can still win. One thing seems clear: If Akin loses, he will go down fighting. As the 5 o'clock deadline for the candidate to drop out approached Tuesday, September 25, campaign spokesman Rick Tyler assured ABC News that the candidate was in the race to stay.
"In the words of Churchill," Tyler said, "Todd will never, never, never, never quit."
Photo of Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) speaking during the first debate in the Missouri Senate race Sept. 21: AP Images