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MO-Sen: Todd Akin Plans Press Conference for Later Today

Care for a Friday afternoon news dump? Todd Akin, the Missouri Senate candidate whose comments about abortion, pregnancy and rape dominated the week, will hold a press conference today at 4:15pm CT in St. Louis County. I’m not sure why this would be held if it weren’t an update to the status of his Senate campaign.

Akin missed the deadline to easily withdraw from the race in Missouri, but it’s not really that much more difficult at this point. He needs to get a court order to get himself off the ballot, which is pretty routine, according to state law experts. His campaign would be liable for any printing costs incurred by having to change the ballots, but I doubt that process has even started by now. It only gets more difficult for Akin if he waited until after the Presidential ballot gets certified after the two nominating conventions.

It’s possible that a local official or the Secretary of State, Democrat Robin Carnahan, could object to the withdrawal, leading to a judicial hearing. But as the NY Times reports:

The relevant statute says someone like Mr. Akin can withdraw “pursuant to a court order, which, except for good cause shown by the election authority in opposition thereto, shall be freely given upon application by the candidate to the circuit court in the county of such candidate’s residence.”

Election officials say they can find no precedent at all for such an objection in the state’s history. But Ms. Carnahan is herself a factor in Republican minds. As the Democratic Senate nominee in 2010, she lost to Representative Roy Blunt, and Republicans imagine she could put up a fight.

“The secretary’s job is to protect the rights of Missouri voters,” Ms. Temple said when asked whether Ms. Carnahan would fight a court order to remove Mr. Akin’s name from the ballot.

County and city officials could oppose the withdrawal order, but it’s not very likely. What would the grounds be?

If Akin does drop out here in an hour or so, the Missouri Republican party’s central committee would choose a candidate to replace him. Speculation has focused on Ann Wagner (who’s running for Akin’s seat in Congress right now, and who ran for chair of the Republican National Committee last year), John Brunner and Sarah Steelman (who Akin defeated in the GOP primary) and even former Missouri Senator and Attorney General John Ashcroft. None of these candidates have much deviation from Akin’s views, including those on abortion. But none of them carry the taint of Akin’s remarks.

Claire McCaskill must be on pins and needles right now.

UPDATE: Media outlets are now reporting that Akin will say in his press conference that he’s staying in the race. These are early reports, of course. But I suppose it’s natural that Akin would treat a campaign event the way everyone else would treat a Friday night news dump.

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David Dayen

David Dayen