As Greg noted this morning, Elizabeth Warren’s main task for the next month is to bring Obama voters to her side. The latest Boston Globe poll, released over the weekend, shows Warren with a 5 point lead over Republican Scott Brown, 43 percent to 38 percent. Holding both back from the 50 percent mark is a crucial bloc of voters who plan to support Barack Obama in the presidential election, but are undecided on who they will send to the Senate. Warren’s strategy for attracting their votes is to highlight one possible outcome of sending Brown back to Congress—Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Huffington Post reports:
“For President Obama to get the things he wants to get done to move this country forward he needs a Democratic Senate,” she told HuffPost on a pier in New Bedford.
“Scott Brown’s first vote would be to put Mitch McConnell to be in charge of the Senate who said he’d make Obama a one-term president. We don’t need more of the politics of obstruction,” she said, adding that she would like to see filibuster reform.
In addition to being a smart strategy for attracting voters who like both candidates, this helps explain why some Republicans are willing to support Todd Akin in Missouri, and why he might still win the election, despite his toxic comments on “legitimate rape.”
Last week, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint announced that his Super PAC—the Senate Conservatives Fund—would pour $290,000 into the Missouri Senate race. This is in contrast to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is still hesitant to invest in the race. On Friday, Texas Senator Jon Cornyn told the Louisville Courier-Journal that the NRSC has “no plans” to support Akin because they do not view it as a “winnable” race. “We have to make tough calculations based on limited resources and where to allocate it, where it will have the best likelihood of electing a Republican senator.”
DeMint, I think, is making the better decision. The simple fact is that this is still a winnable race for Republicans. Four years after it nearly slipped into Obama’s column, Missouri has taken a sharp turn to the right. Obama trails Romney by nearly 6 points, and his approval rating is underwater, his disapproval that consistently reaches past 50 percent. Claire McCaskill doesn’t fare much better—she’s unpopular with most Missouri voters, with unfavorables that match Obama’s disapproval. Indeed, Akin’s stumbles haven’t been enough to give her a solid lead, though she is trending upwards.
A real push from Republicans could give Akin a more secure position. And while the party would have to deal with the short-term fall-out of supporting an openly misogynist senatorial candidate, the long-term gains of having Akin in the Senate would outweigh the political hit.
Put another way, Akin’s reprehensible views don’t change the fact that his win would be big win for conservatives in Congress. It would bring them one step closer to control of the Senate, strengthen their ability to block Democratic legislation, and give them far more leverage over President Obama, if he’s reelected. It would also give them a medium-term advantage—if elected, the power of incumbency means that Akin stands a good chance of holding the seat for a second term.
Jim DeMint is making a smart investment in the future of the Republican Party, and if they’re interested in advancing their goals, more conservatives should follow his lead.