Todd Akin relying on help from conservative rebels

September 24, 2012

Embattled Rep. Todd Akin (R) is walking down a lonely road in the Missouri Senate race, with much of his own party not supporting him. Facing that reality, he’s enlisting the help of a handful of conservative figures in the hopes of defying long odds in his campaign against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D).


Rep. Todd Akin (R) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) during a debate Friday. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

For Akin, who stoked national controversy last month when he said in an interview that “legitimate rape” rarely causes pregnancy, it’s been difficult to make the case that voters should elect him. But in recent weeks, he’s found some Republican surrogates willing to help him make his pitch, including Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, and possibly Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) – three Republicans who have a history of irking the GOP establishment.

Gingrich is raising money with Akin on Monday and spokesman Rick Tyler – who previously worked on Gingrich’s presidential campaign – said Huckabee, who hasn’t made a secret of his support for Akin, will campaign with him in Missouri this fall. DeMint, for his part, suggested late last week his influential political committee may also help Akin.

DeMint told The Hill last week that he will “certainly reconsider what I do,” if Akin stays in the race past the deadline to withdraw his name from the ballot. That deadline is Tuesday, and all indications are that Akin isn’t even remotely considering stepping down. Tyler reiterated Monday that Akin has no plans to end his bid, echoing what the congressman has said repeatedly in recent weeks.

National Journal reported Friday that DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund super PAC may support Akin provided he he backs an earmark ban favored by the group. Tyler told the publication Akin has agreed to the ban.

On Monday, McCaskill’s campaign slammed Akin for changing his position on earmarks with the release of a web video that includes footage of Akin arguing against an earmark ban. Local outlets also noted the shift.

Tyler rejected the notion that Akin’s stance against earmarks represents a shift in his position, saying: “Spending measures that do not go through the normal legislative process and instead are added just prior to a vote and are not germane to the bill to which they are added are clearly earmarks. Todd opposes this practice and has had no such earmarks.”

A Senate Conservatives Fund official confirmed the group is looking at the Missouri race,  but cautioned that it has not decided whether it will support Akin with its financial resources. Considering the group's posture toward Akin during the GOP primary, the possibility that it could back Akin is somewhat unexpected. 

“Akin isn't weak because he’s too conservative. He’s weak because he’s too liberal on spending and earmarks," group spokesman Matt Hoskins told Politico in July, as it was growing clearer that McCaskill was trying to elevate the congressman in the GOP primary. 

For his own part, Akin’s plan this week is to hit the campaign trail. He will embark Tuesday on what his campaign has dubbed the “Missouri Common Sense Bus Tour,” a four-day trip across the state. Akin will be joined on the stump by conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly and Christian radio network founder Dick Bott, among others. The tour will kick off in St. Louis on Tuesday afternoon.

Tyler said Huckabee's wife Janet Huckabee will also campaign for Akin this fall. So will former Republican congressman J.C. Watts of Oklahoma.

But Akin won’t be getting any help from the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, or Crossroads GPS, three influential outside groups that have vowed not to spend any more money on the Missouri race, so long as Akin remains a candidate.

Akin’s campaign hopes that a firm ‘no’ from the groups right now might change as the Election Day draws near, especially if the Senate majority hangs in the balance. 

“My hope is that the national money will come back,” Tyler said.

Polling shows that Akin has already been damaged by his comments. The onslaught of Democratic attacks expected to arrive after Tuesday’s deadline will likely hurt him even more.

In other words, the outlook isn't encouraging for Akin. But for a few Republicans, it hasn't been enough to convince them not to back the congressman's bid. 

Updated at 4:35 p.m.

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