Who is standing by Todd Akin?

August 23, 2012

National Republicans won't be assisting Rep. Todd Akin's (R-Mo.) Senate campaign. Missouri's most influential Republicans have called on him to end his bid. And the GOP's presumptive presidential nominee wants him to out of the race.

Who does that leave in Akin's corner?

At the moment, hardly anyone with a proven ability to influence voters in Missouri is lining up behind Akin. And that's a large part of the reason it will be so difficult for the embattled congressman to keep campaigning.


(Christian Gooden -- AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Akin, who on Sunday sparked national outrage following the broadcast of an interview in which he said "legitimate rape" rarely causes pregnancy, says he plans to continue running against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D). His lone wolf candidacy is still dependent on at least some supplementary support.

Running statewide requires keeping up an active schedule and meeting with voters, which means holding campaign events. Since the Sunday interview, Akin has appeared publicly in only one-on-one settings: morning TV news show interviews, radio interviews with Mike Huckabee (who backed Akin in the primary), and a radio interview with Fox News's Sean Hannity. He also released an apology ad, which required no interaction with voters.

Eventually though, Akin will have to resume organizing campaign gatherings with supporters. Recruiting other Republicans to appear with him could be a very difficult task.

"No one is going to stand next to him," said Buddy Hardin, a St. Charles County Republican activist who backed Sarah Steelman in the GOP primary. "What candidate for any office is going to stand next to him?"

One possibility is John Putnam, the chairman of the Jasper County Republican Central Committee. Putnam defended Akin in an interview with the Joplin Globe published Monday. Akin’s response “was poorly worded,” Putnam told the paper, but “he has apologized for not speaking more clearly and compassionately."

Akin might also find support among some antiabortion advocates. The group Missouri Right To Life chimed in with an encouraging assessment of Akin, even after his Sunday interview, saying his "consistent defense of innocent unborn human life clearly contrasts" with McCaskill's position.

Akin's legislative record has been welcomed by Christian groups, who have been among his most loyal allies during his tenure in the House. But it remains to be seen how closely the groups will stand with him as the campaign moves forward.

Two of Akin's House colleagues, Reps. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), endorsed him in the contested Republican primary. But since Akin made his controversial "legitimate rape" comments, Bachmann has been silent. King says he doesn't agree with Akin's controversial statement, but that the congressman should be judged by his actions, not his words. Since Sunday, neither has demonstrated a clear willingness to be an Akin surrogate.

Given the damage Akin's image has sustained, it's not difficult to see why even those who might be tempted to lend a hand could easily be swayed to keep their distance. A new survey from Republican-leaning automated pollster Rasmussen Reports released Thursday showed Akin trailing McCaskill by ten points. Sixty-three percent of voters surveyed said they had an unfavorable view of the congressman, though he tied McCaskill in the head-to-head matchup among independents. The poll was was a one-day survey conducted Wednesday.

Even if Akin can find supporters willing to introduce him as a speaker on the stump and host campaign gatherings for him, he still has to find a way to raise money. Donors who choose to give to him will show up on campaign finance reports which are available to the public. That will limit his pool of financial supporters only to those who do not fear a potential public relations backlash. His biggest corporate financial backer has already withdrawn its support.

Akin, who has never been a prolific fundraiser, was already in need of reinforcements before becoming a nationally controversial figure. He had just over $500,000 in his campaign account in late July, leading up to the stretch run of the primary. By comparison, McCaskill had about $3.5 million on hand.

For his own part, Akin has been using a "party bosses" vs. "us" pitch to raise money from supporters. He's soliciting help from wherever he can get it and appears to be hoping the backlash against him fuels his most ardent supporters.

"The media is against us. The Washington elites are against us. The party bosses are against us. Help us fight back," Akin tweeted on Wednesday.

When "us" is such a dramatically diminished coalition, it's a pretty hard sell to make.

Updated at 12:00 p.m.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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