Rep. Todd Akin has never been one for the spotlight. Before his Senate campaign, it’s doubtful most people in Missouri or Washington even knew who he was.
Today, he’s the scariest man in the Republican Party.
Akin is at once hugely important to Republicans — his decision about whether to drop out has big implications for the Senate majority — and also totally unbeholden to the GOP establishment that needs him to drop out.
And that combination is a potentially deadly one for Republicans.
“There’s no question, everybody in the country could say get out, and I’m not sure he would,” said one Missouri Republican strategist granted anonymity to speak candidly. “Todd doesn’t listen to anyone, period.”
Nearly everybody is telling Akin to get out now, including five current and former Missouri Republican senators and governors, and the national party said Tuesday afternoon that it wouldn’t spend any money on him if he stays in the race.
The Republican Party is throwing the kitchen sink at Akin, in large part because Missouri could very well be the difference between winning the majority and not. (It’s the third-best pickup opportunity for a Republican Party that needs at least three seats to win back control.)
“Rep. Akin faces a simple choice: Will he help Democrats hold the McCaskill seat and potentially the Senate majority by staying in the race, or will he help Republicans defeat Barack Obama’s most reliable ally in the Senate by getting out?” said Steven Law, head of the GOP super PAC American Crossroads.
But the reason the GOP is throwing the kitchen sink at Akin is also because the kitchen sink is required. Basically nobody can simply call Akin and prevail upon him privately.
Akin hasn’t budged. And in fact, he’s given all the signs of a man who will not be forced to do anything, calling the backlash “a bit of an over-reaction.”
“We believe taking this stand is going to strengthen our country — going to strengthen, ultimately, the Republican Party,” he said on Mike Huckabee’s radio show Tuesday. “What we’re doing here is standing on a principle of what America is.”
Akin has served six terms in Congress, but he’s a back-bencher who has never sought to climb the GOP ranks and comes from such a conservative district that he never needed his party’s help to win reelection. He doesn’t share close political advisers with other Republicans (his son is his campaign manager, for example), and he has never lent much of a helping hand to other Republicans in his home state.
He’s not even reliant on the tea party, which supported his primary opponent, Sarah Steelman, and has largely joined calls for him to drop out. About the only big-name Republicans who appear to be close to Akin are the likes of Huckabee and Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa). (Huckabee cut ads for Akin in the primary, but during interviews Monday and Tuesday, he didn’t weigh in much on Akin’s future as a candidate.)
In other words, nobody who is telling Akin to drop out is a dear friend of his.
An equal or more important factor, say those who know him, is his religiosity. Akin is one of the foremost Christian conservatives in Congress and has made that the centerpiece of his campaign.
But that also means he answers to a higher authority than the chairman of his political party or former senators. And their input will always come second to the man upstairs and Akin’s own personal conviction.
“He marches to a completely different beat,” said another Republican strategist who knows Akin. “He believes that his race is providential, that God has willed his win.”
The combination is making Missouri Republicans more and more pessimistic about Akin’s odds of dropping out, especially as the deadline approaches Tuesday for him to drop out without a court order.
Said the first Missouri GOP strategist: “He’s the last person you would want to have to convince to drop out.”
And yet, that’s the situation Republicans find themselves in.