Todd Akin: Why some Republicans are now supporting him

Former presidential candidate Rick Santorum and two Republican senators – one of whom previously called for Todd Akin to step down – threw support behind the congressman Wednesday.

Jeff Roberson/AP
Missouri Republican Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin speaks during a news conference at the start of a statewide bus tour, Tuesday, Sept. 25, in St. Louis.

Todd Akin won’t have to go it alone.

The Missouri Republican’s senatorial campaign, rocked by his remarks regarding “legitimate rape” last month, was left for dead by scores of national Republicans. Weeks ago, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and Crossroads GPS, a Republican heavyweight “super political-action committee,” pulled advertising from the Show-Me State.

But on Wednesday, the day after Representative Akin could pull out of the race and have his name not appear on the ballot, his campaign against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) was supported by former presidential candidate Rick Santorum (who won Missouri’s Republican presidential primary) and two Republican senators – one of whom had previously called for Akin to step down.

"If Republicans are to win back the Senate and stop President Obama's liberal agenda, we must defeat Senator Claire McCaskill in Missouri. Her support of President Obama's job-killing, big-spending policies are sending our country into an economic abyss,” said Mr. Santorum and Sen. Jim DeMint (R) of South Carolina in a jointly released statement.

Senator DeMint, a leading figure of the Senate’s most conservative wing whose PAC has supported many stridently conservative candidates, is weighing whether to put financial support behind his political vote of confidence.

The other senator voicing support for Akin? Sen. Roy Blunt (R) of Missouri.

“Congressman Akin and I don’t agree on everything, but he and I agree the Senate majority must change,” Senator Blunt said in a statement. “From Governor Romney to the county courthouse, I'll be working for the Republican ticket in Missouri, and that includes Todd Akin."

In August, however, Blunt had joined all four living former Missouri senators in calling for Akin to step down.

“We do not believe it serves the national interest for Congressman Todd Akin to stay in this race,” the five men said in a joint statement. “The issues at stake are too big, and this election is simply too important. The right decision is to step aside.”

Blunt’s about-face seems to be about making the best of a bad situation, says Dave Robertson, a professor of political science at the University of Missouri in St. Louis. With control of the US Senate hanging in the balance, the GOP can’t afford to give up on a race that many thought would be one of its easiest takeover opportunities before Akin’s debacle.

“Whether Akin loses or wins, Blunt is doing this for the party,” Professor Robertson says. “I think it’s not going to be remembered that he did much of this, besides by people who support Akin. For Blunt, it probably is mostly pluses and not many minuses.”

Will any of this backup make a difference for Akin?

It’s unlikely, says Brian Calfano, a political science professor at Missouri State University in Springfield, that Santorum and DeMint will move the needle for the congressman.

“They’re both appealing to a strongly partisan or ideologically pure element of the electorate,” Professor Calfano says. “And Akin already has that support.”

Blunt's support, on the other hand, may help.

“He’s not as associated with the kinds of tea party or strident social conservatism that DeMint or Santorum are,” Calfano says. “Being as he is the hometown senator, he’s going to have a lot more influence” with more center-right voters.

Yet it’s going to take money, and lots of it, to get Akin back on top against the flush McCaskill campaign.

That’s what DeMint may offer – and possibly other national Republicans who have turned off the spigots.

“There’s no way they’re going to ignore the possibility of knocking [McCaskill] off,” Calfano says. “You’re probably still going to see some support from a [PAC] or an NRSC to come in and do something, even though they said they wouldn’t. They’re going to need that seat.”

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