Todd Akin Is on His Own . . . For Now
Pressure is growing by the hour on Rep. Todd Akin (R) to drop out of the Missouri Senate race after his statement about “legitimate rape.” Both Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) have directly called on him to withdraw, while many top Republicans are strongly hinting he should. Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is implying he should step down. Perhaps most dangerous for Akin is that the big money is walking away. Crossroads GPS, one the largest outside spending groups this election is pulling its ads from Missouri.
When the race looked like a good pick up target for Republicans, indications were that Crossroads GPS and other outside groups were easily going to spend several million dollars on Akin’s behalf. Without the outside support, though, Akin is going to be at a real disadvantage, especially since this incident will likely encourage Democratic leaning groups to increase their spending on re-electing Claire McCaskill.
Akin will need to try to make up the loss of outside support with direct spending from his campaign, but fundraising may not be easy. Currently with top Republicans indicating either condemnations or at least their strong discomfort with Akin, and public opinion strongly against him, it should be difficult to attract big donors for now.
Obviously many in the GOP want to replace Akin with an untainted candidate and/or use limited resources on better prospects in other states, but if Akin can survive the coming weeks when the story is likely to be the worst for Akin, I don’t think he will be on his own forever. The broad politic dynamics of this cycle have not changed. Republicans have a small chance of winning a majority in the Senate but they are going to need every seat they can. Despite Akin’s statement, Missouri is one of only a few seats that are even potentially in play this year, and Claire McCaskill is still inherently very weak.
If Akin refuses to yield to pressure to step down, and we get close to November with Akin still polling within striking distance of McCaskill — and both are big ifs — I suspect the big conservative money will come pouring back. When push comes to shove I doubt conservatives will pass up a chance of taking control of the Senate only because months early the Republican candidate was arguing against abortion in a way that offended people.
Of course holding on and proving he can still win is going to be difficult when in the short term he faces a real money disadvantage and strong public condemnation. There is a good chance Akin is already entering a death spiral he can’t escape. The fewer big players he has helping in the short term the worse off he will end up, which in turn will make less people want to waste resources on what seems like a lost cause, making him appear even worse off and less worthy of help.