Elizabeth Warren’s main task for the next month is to bring Obama voters to her side. The latest Boston Globe poll shows Warren with a 5 point lead over Republican Scott Brown, 43 percent to 38 percent. Holding both back from the 50 percent mark is a crucial bloc of voters who plan to support Barack Obama in the presidential election, but are undecided on who they will send to the Senate. Warren’s strategy for attracting their votes is to highlight one possible outcome of sending Brown back to Congress — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
During last night’s Massachusetts Senate debate, she pressed on this point, after Brown described himself as having an independent voting record. “When Senator Brown talks here in Massachusetts about how very bipartisan he is and about how very independent he is, he sure is not saying the same thing when he goes around the country raising money,” she said. “He goes around this country, and what he says to people around this country, is that they should contribute to his campaign because if he’s reelected, that increases the odds that the Republicans control the Senate, and he can block President Obama’s agenda.”
This helps explain why some Republicans are willing to support Todd Akin over in Missouri, and why he might still win the election, despite his toxic comments on “legitimate rape.”
Last week, conservative South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint announced that his Super PAC would pour $290,000 into the Missouri Senate race. This is in contrast to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, whose leader, Texas Senator Jon Cornyn, said that the NRSC has “no plans” to support Akin because they do not view it as a “winnable” race.
DeMint is making the better decision. The simple fact is that this is still a winnable race for Republicans. Four years after it nearly slipped into Obama’s column, Missouri has taken a sharp turn to the right. Obama trails Romney by nearly 6 points, and his approval rating is underwater, his disapproval that consistently reaches past 50 percent. Claire McCaskill doesn’t fare much better — she’s unpopular with most Missouri voters, with unfavorables that match Obama’s disapproval. Indeed, Akin’s stumbles haven’t been enough to give her a solid lead, though she is trending upwards.
A real push from Republicans could give Akin a more secure position. And while the party would have to deal with the short-term fall-out of supporting an openly misogynist senatorial candidate, the long-term gains of having Akin in the Senate would outweigh the political hit.
Akin’s reprehensible views don’t change the fact that an Akin victory would be big win for conservatives in Congress. It would bring them one step closer to control of the Senate, strengthen their ability to block Democratic legislation, and give them far more leverage over President Obama, if he’s reelected. It would also give them a medium-term advantage — if elected, the power of incumbency means that Akin stands a good chance of holding the seat for a second term.
Jim DeMint is making a smart investment in the future of the Republican Party, and if they’re interested in advancing their goals, more conservatives should follow his lead.