Todd Akin did not leave the Missouri Senate race yesterday. He has until Sept 25 to seek a court order to get out. The statute says permission shall be “freely given.” A court is therefore unlikely to deny him a belated exit, but nothing in court, I suppose, is certain. In any event, Akin did himself no good yesterday.
First, he went on Sean Hannity’s radio show. In a performance that many conservatives termed incoherent or delusional he insisted he wouldn’t hurt the party. He claimed his candidacy was needed to talk about values in the race. He asserted he said only one wrong word. (Huh?) As Hannity poked and prodded him, his lack of political awareness only deepened. Some conservatives dubbed it “sad” or “uncomfortable.”
As if that were not bad enough, he then tweeted and put up a message on his Web site: “I apologized but the liberal media is trying to make me drop out.” This would come as news to the entire GOP and many prominent radio talk show hosts who told him to hang it up. His message engendered snide remarks, but little sympathy.
And to top it off, Sarah Palin told Akin to scram:
Despite all that, for now he remains in the race. So what can the GOP do?
1. The Republican National Committee can go to pro-life groups inside the state and nationally and ask them if they want to win the Senate or not. If they do, they better do what they can to cajole and urge him to get out. It is the pro-life cause that is being dragged through the mud, and they, more than any other segment of the GOP, have an interest in separating the pro-life cause from a defective candidate. If they don’t get with the program, the loss of the Missouri Senate race will be as much the result of their sin of omission as of Akin’s sin of serial stupidity.
2. State party officials can come up with the replacement for Akin, whom they hope would be popular. They can then present him to the public with the admonition that Replacement Candidate would come in if Akin exits. Then let the polls do their work.
3. There can be heart-to-heart talks with Akin’s consultants, advisers and staff, telling them that they risk becoming pariahs in the party along with Akin if they encourage this destructive campaign. They can stick with him, but they needn’t be under any illusion that they can avoid becoming toxic in GOP circles (as Nicolle Wallace became following her bad-mouthing of Sarah Palin). This isn’t in any way a threat; it’s a political reality.
4. The party can wait for money to dry up and more polls to come out, hoping Akin will come to his senses. (Someone might mail him a recording of the Hannity show to absorb.) Time and an empty bank account may finally bring him around.
5. A third-party group can come up with a useful video ad showing the Democrats’ high-fiving and celebratory announcements after yesterday’s deadline passed. It would be an unsubtle reminder that the only Missouri voter who wants him to stay in the race is Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.)
In the end, however, it is Akin who must make the decision to go. It is a painful reminder that primary elections have consequences and voters should insist that candidates be fully vetted.