National Republicans re-open door to spending money on Akin

September 26, 2012

The National Republican Senatorial Committee issued a statement Wednesday clarifying its support for Rep. Todd Akin in the Missouri Senate race and suggesting it might spend money to help elect him, after saying a month ago that it would not do so.

“There is no question that for Missourians who believe we need to stop the reckless Washington spending, rein-in the role of government in people’s lives, and finally focus on growing jobs in this country, that Todd Akin is a far more preferable candidate than liberal Sen. Claire McCaskill," NRSC executive director Rob Jesmer said. "As with every Republican Senate candidate, we hope Todd Akin wins in November, and we will continue to monitor this race closely in the days ahead.”

The NRSC said after Akin's controversial comments about "legitimate rape" last month that it would not spend money on his behalf this fall. The hope at the time was that the threat would force Akin out of the race and Republicans could replace him with a more electable nominee.

It didn't work, though, and the deadline for Akin to exit the race passed Tuesday. That means he will now officially appear on the ballot and Republicans have to deal with the situation as it stands.

Asked to clarify whether it might spend money on Akin, the committee declined to comment, citing a desire not to broadcast its strategy.

Establishment Republicans generally believe that the race is lost, but polling has shown that Akin trails McCaskill only by single digits, and other Republicans have suggested they might still have a chance to win the seat.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), for example, jumped on board with Akin on Wednesday and has encouraged his party to do the same. Newt Gingrich has also raised money for Akin.

Other Republicans have clarified that they support Akin, including Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who had been charged with trying to get him out of the race.

But while people like Blunt publicly tried to push Akin out, national Republicans took it a step further in saying they wouldn't spend money to elect him. And what Akin needs right now is -- you guessed it -- money.

DeMint's backing, in particular, put the national GOP in a tough spot. Wednesday's statement clarifies their position somewhat, but questions will persist about whether the NRSC would jump in if the race wound up being close.

That's a big "if," though. Even as Akin has stayed close in the polls, Democrats have largely held their fire over the last month in hopes of keeping him in the race. The emerging onslaught against Akin -- which his campaign will struggle to compete with financially -- could certainly move the polls more in Democrats' favor.

Democrats said Wednesday that the move shows Republicans were bluffing when the threatened to pull funding from the race.

“No one should’ve been fooled by the Republican party’s faux outrage and their ensuing change of course, because as the Republican establishment is making clear today, the Akin backlash was never about principle, it was purely about politics," said Shripal Shah, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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Sean Sullivan · September 26, 2012