Republican Missouri Rep. Todd Akin called a press conference late Friday afternoon, and there’s only one word to describe it: awkward.
Akin stood behind a podium with his campaign’s logo attached and in front of a sign with the same logo as a handful of supporters mingled on the side. An Akin aide said that the GOP senatorial nominee, who has been in a firestorm since his rape comments earlier this week, would make brief remarks and take five questions. When Akin appeared, he looked uncertain as he unfolded a piece of yellow paper.
But his words were anything but shaky. Once again, Akin reiterated that he was staying in the race. He was determined to beat Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill and said to his supporters, “There are some people who are having trouble understanding our message. We’re going to be here through the November election and we’re going to be here to win.”
For anyone who has been living in a cave this week, Akin is the GOP candidate who said that “legitimate rape” rarely leads to pregnancy. The backlash tsunami quickly engulfed Akin and the Republican Party in the week leading into their convention in Tampa.
Many GOP leaders, including Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, have called for Akin to step aside. Sarah Palin, who endorsed Sarah Steelman in the Missouri GOP Senate primary, called for Steelman to launch a third party run against Akin. The National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee has said it will pull $5 million in advertising for Akin. Other groups have also threatened to pull money if he stays in the race.
But the Christian Right, including former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who supported Akin in the three-candidate primary, urged him all week to remain in the race.
“I may not be the favorite candidate of some people within the Republican establishment, but the voters made their decision,” Akin said at the news conference.
He cryptically said, “…there may be some negotiations, but they don’t include me” before adding that he has had threats made on his life regarding his comments on rape.
Friday is historically known as a prime news dump day. But Akin wasn’t really telling anyone new bad news or issuing a statement on a scandal. He’s been saying all week he will stay in the race.
No, what Akin attempted to do on Friday afternoon was turn the negative into a positive and come out as the offense underdog. He swung at McCaskill even joking maybe she should get out of the race. By turning the attention back to McCaskill, he slightly changes his storyline before the Sunday talk shows. He needs to halt Democrats, including former House speaker Nancy Pelosi, who told She The People's editor Melinda Henneberger this week that Akin is “the doggie doo on the shoe of his party, the tattoo on Paul Ryan that they won’t be able to get off.’’
The GOP convention will steal some of the attention away from Akin with its patriotic rah-rah around the Romney-Ryan ticket. But Akin will remain a thorn in the Republican party’s side, a reminder of what happens when the extreme right wins a primary.
Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt.” Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker