Sarah Palin says she isn’t gloating, but she does believe she’s right.

(J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

It’s not too late for Sarah Steelman, who should have been the Republican contender in Missouri’s bid to unseat incumbent Claire McCaskill (D) in the U.S. Senate race, Palin says. Steelman could still run – as a third-party candidate.

“Maybe it is a third-party run of Sarah Steelman that I can get behind,” Palin told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren on Tuesday’s “On the Record.” “Granted ‘the status quo has got to go’ would be an odd name for a third party, but we’ll coin it, adapt it, run with it, if that’s what it takes in order to get a common-sense constitutional, happens to be pro-life woman in Missouri to clean up this mess that’s been created and at the same time, take back the Senate.”

McCaskill has been targeted as one of the three most vulnerable Democrats in the Senate; a GOP win could mean a Republican majority in the next Senate.

Rep. Todd Akin, who beat both Steelman and businessman John Brunner in the contentious GOP primary earlier this month, has gotten himself in hot water with Republicans ranging from former Gov. Mitt Romney to talk-show host Rush Limbaugh.

Akin, in a weekend television interview, said a woman’s body could defy biology by preventing pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape.”

The National Republican Senatorial Committee pulled $5 million of advertising support and Akin was urged by party leaders to withdraw from the race by a deadline of 5 p.m. CST Tuesday.

It became obvious after Akin let the deadline slide that he wasn’t going to sit this one out for the team. Like a stubborn Missouri mule, he is going to run in this election, although he will avoid the Republican National Convention next week in Tampa.

Palin, who says she knew when it was time to quit the governor’s gig in Alaska, gave him some advice on Van Susteren’s show. “Bless his heart, I don’t want to pile on Todd Akin because, in some respects, I understand what he’s trying to say here in standing on principle, that he doesn’t want to be perceived as a quitter. But you got to know when to hold them and know when to fold them.”

If Akin refuses to quit, the solution’s simple: Enter Steelman, who has served as a state senator and treasurer, as a third-party candidate, Palin says.

It’s been done before. Sen. Joe Lieberman kept his Senate seat in Connecticut after running as an independent when he lost the Democratic primary in 2006.

In the 2010 election, Lisa Murkowski won as a write-in candidate in Alaska after her defeat by a Tea Party candidate in the Republican primary. No one had won a Senate seat by write-in since Strom Thurmond did it in 1954 in South Carolina.

But there are a couple of problems: The deadline for independent candidates to get on Missouri’s ballot was July 30, according to the Secretary of State Web site. And because of the state’s “sore loser” law, Steelman can’t run in the general election as a write-in candidate after losing the primary.

Steelman’s only hope at this point? If Akin would step aside, that she’d be the pick by the GOP. Will they listen to Mama Grizzly Palin this time?

Diana Reese is a freelance journalist in Kansas City. Follow her on Twitter @dianareese.