Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin has no support from fellow Republicans in the upper chamber, a dried-up well of national campaign cash infusions, and conservatives begging him to step aside for the good of the party and the GOP’s hopes of retaking the Senate.
And yet, as the time for Akin to seamlessly withdraw from the race to unseat incumbent Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) ran out late this afternoon, Akin insisted that he could still win and would be staying in the race.
In his defiant declarations of bucking the tidal wave of will against his continued candidacy, the six-term congressman seemed bent on trying to paint himself as the ultimate anti-establishment candidate: one who wouldn’t be bullied by the media, sitting Republican lawmakers, or even a presidential candidate, but who believed so much in the principle of a stronger America that he wouldn’t hand the task off to someone else.
“Akin is still standing,” declared the homepage of his campaign website.
“The people from Missouri who elected me know I’m not perfect. They don’t make perfect people. We all make mistakes. When you make a mistake you tell people you’re sorry, you don’t try and hide it. I made a mistake and I’m sorry,” Akin said on his site, emphasis added by the candidate, asking visitors to “chip-in $3 as a sign of support of my continued candidacy” and asking for petition signatures to pledge “We the people stand with pro-life candidate Todd Akin!”
“I apologized but the liberal media is trying to make me drop out. Please stand w/ me tonight by signing my petition at http://www.akin.org/still-standing,” he tweeted two hours after the dropout deadline.
Akin began the day, in which GOP leaders were looking forward to a withdrawal by 5 p.m. Central time (and had reason to believe he might, given that he reportedly recruited help to make that transition), with an ad in which he asked for “forgiveness” for how he “used the wrong words in the wrong way” in talking about rape and pregnancy.
“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” the Missouri lawmaker said on a local TV station Sunday.
In a quixotic pledge to “rush to the gunfire,” Akin rushed to the side of friendly radio hosts today, and one who only increased the pressure on Akin to drop out as the time ticked down.
“One word, one sentence, one day out of place and all of a sudden the entire establishment turns on you,” Akin told Dana Loesch on her show. Akin said he had been misunderstood, and was “making the point that there were those who were making false claims, like those who basically created Roe v. Wade.”
“I want to make one thing absolutely clear. We are going to continue with this U.S. Senate race,” Akin definitively told Mike Huckabee on Tuesday, whose show was the first one on which Akin appeared after the scandal broke.
Akin was a no-show last night on Piers Morgan after his campaign staff told the CNN host that he’d appear. But he did show up for the second time in as many days on Sean Hannity’s radio show, where the conservative host browbeat the congressman about staying in the race despite the damage he could inflict on the party.
“You misspeak one time, one place, one word,” Akin said. “Don’t you think that this is a little hyperbole going on here?”
The candidate said he had spoken with his House colleague, Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who advised him to think about stepping aside.
“He recognized I had to make a tough decision here,” Akin said. “…He didn’t tell me what to do; that’s because he’s a very respectful and decent guy.”
Though GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney didn’t expressly join the chorus yesterday demanding that Akin step aside — voices that included several senators — he followed up with another condemnation statement today asking just that.
“As I said yesterday, Todd Akin’s comments were offensive and wrong and he should very seriously consider what course would be in the best interest of our country,” Romney said. “Today, his fellow Missourians urged him to step aside, and I think he should accept their counsel and exit the Senate race.”
On Hannity’s show, Akin seemed miffed at the Romney statement. “Why couldn’t he run his race and I run mine?” the congressman said.
But can this crusader defiance win?
Akin leaned on two things in his determination to press on: his self-perceived seizure of the anti-establishment mantle, and the first poll taken on his race since the controversy erupted over the weekend.
The Public Policy Polling survey found the margins essentially unmoved by the firestorm over Akin’s comments, as he led McCaskill 44-43. PPP’s last poll in late May put Akin ahead 45-44. Still, just 24 percent of voters surveyed have a favorable image of Akin, with 58 percent expressing a negative view. Just 9 percent of those polled found his comments to have been appropriate. Fifty-one percent of Republican voters said they strongly disagree with him.
The poll sample was 39 percent Republican, 32 percent independent, and 30 percent Democrat. Only a quarter of those polled identified as very or somewhat liberal, setting a stage that would seem to naturally work against McCaskill in the poll results.
And as Akin insisted he was staying in the race to fight the good fight, the backlash within his own party kept piling on.
Especially, as the scandal threw fresh fuel on the Democrats’ “war on women” meme, from Senate women.
“Like many Americans, I was deeply troubled by the comments made this weekend by Missouri Congressman Todd Akin,” said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, the longest serving woman in the Senate Republican Caucus. “I can think of no justification for the remarks. I urge the congressman to reconsider whether his continued candidacy for the U.S. Senate is in the best interest of his constituents.”
Tweeted Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.): “Akin’s comments are totally offensive. I agree with @JohnCornyn for cutting off $. Akin should step aside now.”
“I join many Alaskans in finding Rep. Todd Akin’s comments incredibly offensive and I strongly encourage him to step aside,” tweeted Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
“Such extreme and ill-informed comments are particularly offensive to victims of sexual assault,” Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said. “In the wake of this incident, there is no doubt that Rep. Akin cannot–and should not–represent the Republican party in this fall’s general election for United States Senator from Missouri, and it is appropriate for our party to deny him any and all funding should he decide not to step aside before today’s deadline.”
Akin got another wallop from his home staters.
Missouri’s current Republican senator, Roy Blunt, and three former GOP senators — Jack Danforth, Jim Talent, and John Ashcroft — banded together to issue a statement about Akin and his “totally unacceptable” comments.
“We do not believe it serves the national interest for Congressman Todd Akin to stay in this race,” the senators said in a statement. “The issues at stake are too big, and this election is simply too important. The right decision is to step aside.”
And yet Akin pressed on with his veneer of misunderstood hero of true American principles.
“I misplaced the word and created something that people didn’t understand,” Akin said on Hannity’s show. “And I’m sorry for that. …My interest is about America.”
Meanwhile, Democrats salivated at the chance to link Akin’s ever-spiraling comments to a wider GOP plan of women’s subjugation.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said that Akin’s comments show that he’s “a leader” in the “war on women,” with Ryan as “his very proud partner.”
The Democratic National Committee quickly slapped Akin’s photo next to Romney’s and Ryan’s on a banner declaring the Republican Party to be “dangerously wrong for women.”
“Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are running away from Todd Akin and they’re running away from Paul Ryan’s legislative agenda, which he’s been very clear about and was in lockstep with Todd Akin,” Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), one of several Dem women lawmakers deployed on news shows in the wake of the controversy, said this evening on MSNBC. “And now they’re going to try to run away from the Republican Party platform.”
And this afternoon, the Internet was buzzing with links between Akin’s theories on biological rejection of pregnancy during rape and studies conducted in World War II Nazi death camps.
“It may go back and forth a little bit, but I don’t think this race is lost by any means,” Akin said on Loesch’s show. “I think people… they just ran for cover at the first sign of any gunfire and I think we need to rush to the gunfire. I think we need to take this battle forward and defy and to defend America, the way she has always been.”