So Todd Akin announced today that he’s staying in the Missouri Senate race. He insisted that there had been an “overreaction” to his “legitimate rape” comments, and said he had since enjoyed a “tremendous outpouring of support.”

The NRSC immediately released a statement today threatening not to bankroll his candidacy: “if he continues with this misguided campaign, it will be without the support and resources of the NRSC.” Meanwhile Mitch McConnell called on Akin in no uncertain terms to get out.

Time will tell whether the GOP establishment will stick with its refusal to support him if he stays in. But either way, we’re now about to get Todd Akin Unbound. He no longer has to play nice, as the powers that be in the GOP define it; he’ s been cut loose by the GOP establishment, and he’s now on a crusade that seems to be taking on an element of religious fervor.

“We believe taking this stand is going to strengthen our country — going to strengthen, ultimately, the Republican Party,” he said today. “I believe there is a cause here.”

And if an unconstrained Akin does remain in the race, just imagine the implications for the presidential race. It was revealed today that the GOP platform ratifies a Constitutional ban on abortion that makes no exceptions for rape or incest. This might not have attracted much attention if it weren’t for Akin’s comments, which elevated the debate over abortion — and the rape exception — into a major national story. Now the GOP position on abortion is the Akin position. Indeed, Dem operatives are gleefully describing that platform provision as the “Akin plank.”

Meanwhile, national news organizations are highlighting Paul Ryan’s co-sponsorship, along with Akin, of various draconian anti-abortion measures, in the process tying Ryan — and the GOP’s stance on abortion — directly to Akin’s extremism. If Akin continues down this track, and continues drawing national attention, particularly in the event of more incendiary comments, this will only get worse for the GOP and its presidential ticket in an election that may be decided by the already-widening gender gap.

It’s for this reason that I’m skeptical that Akin will stay in over the long haul. An Akin confidant already left some wiggle room in an interview with Real Clear Politics, saying: “He may ultimately decide the best decision for him and America is to step aside, but he’s not going to rush to the judgment of the D.C. establishment.” The confidant said that Akin will outlast today’s deadline but will reconsider whether he’ll withdraw by the court-ordered deadline September 25th.

And so it seems very plausible that Akin is taking a stand right now to make a statement and look as if he’s not getting pushed around by the hated establishment. But later, he could claim he has decided it is better for “America” if he steps aside, magnanimously exiting the race to prevent damaging the GOP presidential ticket and making it less likely that Obama will be reelected. If his continued presence does keep reflecting badly on the Romney/Ryan presidential effort, the pressure on him to exit will make what’s happening now look like a feather-dusting.

On the other hand, perhaps Akin really is crazy enough to stick with it.


UPDATE: Mitt Romney calls on Akin to drop out:

“As I said yesterday, Todd Akin’s comments were offensive and wrong and he should very seriously consider what course would be in the best interest of our country. Today, his fellow Missourians urged him to step aside, and I think he should accept their counsel and exit the Senate race.”