If you are a Republican candidate or officeholder it is time to get off the stage when:

1. Sean Hannity roughs you up.

2. The RNC disinvites you to the campaign.

3. You have to go on Piers Morgan to get any sympathy. And then you decide even that is a mistake.

4. Ann Coulter and liberal newspaper editorial boards tell you to drop out.

5. Sarah Palin, who backed an opponent, starts an I-tol-ya-so drumbeat.

The stupidity of Todd Akin’s comments was not the only jaw-dropping development to occur yesterday. The speed with which usually stubborn, MSM-resentful conservative called for him to leave the race was breathtaking. Often, as was the case with Sen. Trent Lott’s comments in 2002 at Sen. Strom Thurmond’s birthday party, it takes days or weeks before Republicans collectively agree it’s time to throw a beleaguered man overboard.

The sped up news cycle explains this in part. The firestorm and the retreat build much faster than in the pre-Twitter days.

In this instance, you can attribute some of the alacrity to the deadline for Akin to get out. (Although there appears to be another process for a court order to get off the ballot.) But the real reason for the group shriek is simple: Republicans think they can win the Senate and they know what is at stake if they don’t.

In the post-Paul Ryan phase of the general election, conservatives are exhilarated and once again dreaming of an Obama-free White House. They also know all too well that in order to pull-out the greatest object of their ire on the domestic policy front, Obamacare, they’ll at least need a Senate majority to utilize the reconciliation process. And knowing how weak-kneed some Republicans can get, they know they’d better have a few votes extra.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) was one of the seats — only a bit less gettable than North Dakota and Nebraska — that Republicans felt confident they could win back. McCaskill had her tax problem with her airplane. She voted for virtually all of Obama’s left-wing agenda, a perilous course, from a rather conservative state. In May the Democratic PPP poll found she hit rock bottom in approval, with 50 percent disapproving of her performance and only 40 percent giving thumbs up.

With memories of blown Senate pick-up opportunities in 2010 in Delaware, Nevada and Colorado, Republicans are in no mood to indulge misfits. This, for all the talk of how ideological Republicans have become, suggests the party and specifically Tea Partyers have undergone some maturation. It is significant that the Tea Party Express that had backed Sharron Angle in 2010 came out swiftly in favor of Akin’s departure.

Whether they can chase Akin out remains to be seen. But the Republican Party is this cycle at least acting like grown-ups who want to win. That’s a good sign for a party that at one time toyed with nominating Herman Cain. Republicans are not simply telling voters how important this election is; they fully believe it. Learning to win with the most electable conservative (with a nod to William F. Buckley, Jr.) tells me ideological rigidity has taken a back seat to the demands of the time.