Despite sources telling various news outlets that embattled Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin will drop out of the race today, it appears that Mr. Akin intends to stay in the race.
He put out an ad this morning asking for “forgiveness” and said he “used the wrong words in the wrong way” when discussing rape and the chances of getting pregnant:
Akin has also started an online fundraising effort tied to his statement that he is not leaving the race. And he sent an email to supporters on Monday night as well:
“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 to tell people you’re sorry, you don’t try and hide it. I made a mistake and I’m sorry,” Akin says in the email. “I have just begun to fight and I’m in this race to the end!”
The spot was produced by the Strategy Group for Media, which guided Akin to an upset victory in a multi-candidate Republican primary. For Akin to move ahead, he’ll have to apologize profusely (as in this ad) and move on from his problematic comments, return the focus of his campaign to McCaskill and her record in Congress, and win back support from the national Republicans who have condemned him when it becomes clear that he’s going to remain the party’s nominee for Senate. He’ll have to run an insurgent race and bet either that the GOP establishment eventually comes back on board — or that he won’t need them in the general election any more than he needed them in the primary.
Betting that the GOP will be forced to support him later or that he won’t need party cash or the cash from super Pacs is a very bad bet. The party cannot ride to the rescue later in the campaign after having hopefully lanced the Akin boil in the first place and inoculated the top of the ticket against the toxicity of his comments. The Obama campaign’s mantra of a GOP “War on Women” wasn’t gaining much traction until Akin’s ignorant comments — which have been supported by some prominent social conservative groups.
The entire party is in danger of being dragged down because Akin and his allies among social conservatives only see a single issue — abortion — in the candidate’s words. In fact, his musings about a woman’s body magically rejecting a rapist’s sperm play to the notion of Republicans being anti-science. His ill-informed statement about “legitimate” rape angered not only women, but every father in America with a daughter. His ignorance about incidents of rape not resulting in pregnancies revealed the candidate to be shockingly unfit to serve.
The issue isn’t abortion; the issue is whether Mr. Akin and his social-conservative allies will become living symbols of every nasty thing the Democrats say about Republicans. It’s a slam dunk, no brainer, sure thing that Democrats and the Obama campaign will seek to wrap Akin’s words around the necks of every GOP candidate, including the top of the ticket, if he stays in the race.
Public Policy Polling released a survey this morning showing that Akin’s formerly formidable lead has been cut to 44-43%. Less than a fortnight ago, Survey USA put his lead at 11 points over McCaskill. PPP also sampled voters on Akin’s comments:
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.
The controversy won’t blow over. The Democrats won’t let it. Better for Akin to drop out now rather than have the entire party spend the next three months trying to explain they don’t agree with him.