Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R) jumps in to the Missouri Senate race Wednesday with a statewide television ad critical of Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill for her votes on foreign aid to countries that have seen violent demonstrations critical of the United States.
Paul is the latest Republican to defy party leaders and help the beleaguered Senate candidacy of Todd Akin, abandoned by the national GOP in August after telling a television interviewer that woman generally do not get pregnant in cases of "legitimate rape." Top Republicans, including presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ken.), asked Akin to drop out and cut national party support for his campaign.
Akin apologized but sank in the polls, surviving with a small cadre of defiant supporters, mostly Christian conservatives. McCaskill leads in most polls, but Akin's numbers have recovered from the 20-point gap that emerged after his rape comment.
Akin's support among national conservatives has slowly been growing. The National Federation of Independent Business announced this week that it is supporting Akin.
Paul's political committee, RandPAC, has been active in Ohio, West Virginia and Florida hitting the anti-foreign aid favorite theme -- a Paul favorite. The ads have gotten push-back from Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), who says the cuts would compromise American foreign policy.
The ad launching Wednesday in Missouri hits McCaskill for opposing legislation that would cut foreign aid to countries critical of the United States. The ad features pictures of anti-American mobs as an announcer intones: "Our debt keeps climbing. But Claire McCaskill works with Barack Obama to send our money overseas to radicals who attack our embassies, burn our flag and kill our diplomats. . . It's time to bring our tax dollars home and send Claire McCaskill home too."
McCaskill's campaign rejected this view of foreign aid. "Todd Akin's position on this issue is so extreme, he would be one of only 10 senators to cut this foreign aid funding," said campaign communications director Caitlin Legacki. "Sen. Roy Blunt, as well as every member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, including Sen. John McCain, voted against this bill because these overly-simplistic solutions in a dangerous, complex world put our allies and American interests at risk."
Paul's chief of staff, Doug Stafford, said the Kentucky senator decided to back Akin with the six-figure ad buy because he "accepts that Congressman Akin apologized" for his rape comments.
"One or two mistaken sentences or thoughts doesn't change the fact that there are dozens of issues on which Claire McCaskill is truly bad on and on which Todd Akin would be a significant improvement," Stafford said.
The help from Paul comes at a critical time for Akin. McCaskill has broken state records in fundraising while Akin has had trouble finding financial support even as his poll numbers began to recover.
Paul now joins fellow conservative Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) in providing material assistance. DeMint's Senate Conservative Fund has pledged as much as $300,000 to help Akin. In addition, Graham and Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.) lent their names to Akin fundraising efforts. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and former House speaker Newt Gingrich have agreed to campaign in Missouri on behalf of Akin.