Today is the last day that Rep. Todd Akin can withdraw from the Senate race in Missouri without court intervention. So far, despite pleas from Republicans far and wide including Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and Rush Limbaugh, Akin is pledging to stay in. He is even said to view his run “providentially,” meaning he isn’t listening to Ayotte or Cornyn or Sen. Scott Brown or Crossroads GPS or anyone else. Or reason. He is reportedly buying ads to run over the next few days. He’ll probably go mea culpa and then pivot to hammering McCaskill.
Akin might be listening to the current polls. PPP posted a new poll today showing that Akin’s rape comments haven’t moved the race much yet. He still leads McCaskill by a point, 44-43.
It’s not that Missouri voters are ok with or supportive of Akin’s comments. 75% of voters, including even 64% of Republicans, say they were inappropriate to only 9% who consider them to have been appropriate. 79% of voters say they disagree with what Akin said, including 65% who express ‘strong’ disagreement with him. 51% of GOP voters say they strongly disagree with him.
All of that is taking a toll on Akin’s image. Only 24% of voters have a favorable opinion of him to 58% with a negative one. He’s pretty universally disliked by Democrats (3/85) and independents (21/61) and even with Republicans (43/34) he’s on only narrowly positive ground.
But for all of that the overall numbers in the race have moved very little. When we polled in May McCaskill was getting only 8% of the Republican vote, and even with the controversy around Akin she’s only pushed up to 10% of it. GOP voters dislike McCaskill so much they’re not going to vote for her no matter what their nominee does. Independent voters haven’t moved at all either. In May they supported Akin 45-41, and even though they don’t like him on tonight’s poll we still found him leading 45-41 with them.
Todd Akin is unpopular, but so is Claire McCaskill. Voters can vote against Akin for saying a very dumb thing, or they can vote against McCaskill for being Obama’s puppet. Voting for either one seems out of the question at this point. There may be a sampling problem with the PPP poll. The firm usually oversamples Democrats, but in this poll according to one of Ace’s bloggers, PPP went R +8 to give Akin that one-point edge.
So Akin may not have a lead at all, in fact he may already be behind.
In any case, the thorn here is that today’s poll is only a snapshot of a moving electorate that is coming to grips with the storm swirling around Akin. If the NRSC and GPS stay out of the race, the Democrats will shell Akin into the stone age with negative ads that will push his numbers down. If Akin stays in, the NRCS and GPS may work their way back in by shelling McCaskill without ever mentioning Akin at all. That will drive her numbers down.
Missouri will be all negative, all the time, and the likelihood of the Republicans picking up that very winnable seat dwindle by the day. The secondary effect of all of this is that while President Obama had another disastrous press conference yesterday, and there are serious things afoot that need more exposure, Akin’s “providential” stubbornness is sucking the air away from everything else. The sooner he goes, the sooner the heat gets turned back where it should be focused.
The clock is ticking.
Update: Sometimes you can’t fix stupid. This seems obvious in retrospect, but anyone dumb enough to say what Akin said is not smart enough to make a level-headed decision about the consequences of what he said.