After a much-publicized gaffe and efforts by GOP leadership to kill his campaign, Republican Senate contender Rep. Todd Akin is back, with a new poll showing him surging ahead of incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in Missouri.
And with the sudden “resurrection” of Akin’s campaign, Republicans are starting to rethink their chances of taking control of the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim 51-47 margin (with two independents who caucus with the Democrats).
Only a month ago, Akin was trailing in polls by roughly 6 percent. But according to a Wenzel Strategies poll taken over the weekend, Akin has surged to a four-point lead, 48.9 to 44.7, with a plus-or-minus 3.07 margin of error. Nearly 87 percent of respondents said they were “firm in choice.”
In this era of questioning every poll’s bias, Wenzel polled a party split of 38/37/25 Democrat/Republican/independent, which makes it weighted realistically between Missouri’s splits in the 2008 Democrat tide (40/34/26) and the 2010 Republican-dominating midterm (34/37/28).
The poll only confirms a trend seen in recent weeks and noted in the Newsweek article “Todd Akin: Lazarus Rises in Missouri.” The article summed it up: “He was left for dead. He could win – and change the Senate.”
Akin ran headlong into a media firestorm when he used the phrase “legitimate rape” as an awkward synonym for forcible rape.
He apologized repeatedly for the error, as well as for mentioning a controversial medical theory regarding rape and conception. He also has made it clear he is remaining in the race against McCaskill and intends to win.
Yet GOP leadership pounced on Akin after the statement in an effort to drive him out of the race. Akin was publicly urged to drop out by his party’s presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, and telephoned by vice presidential pick Paul Ryan, who also asked him to quit. The GOP elite cut off campaign funds when the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and strategist Karl Rove’s American Crossroads PAC turned against Akin. Pundit Ann Coulter even called Akin a “selfish swine” for continuing his race.
Yet many conservatives have rallied to Akin in defiance of Republican leadership.
One of the first leaders to speak out on Akin’s behalf was Dr. James Dobson, whose advice about parenting, child-rearing, marriage and faith has guided millions of Americans and whose counsel on family matters has been sought by presidents.
Dobson, the founder and president of Family Talk, which produces his regular radio program, “Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk,” told WND it is “disgraceful” that the “GOP political bosses” have told Akin to drop out of the race, have withdrawn financial support and publicly maligned the congressman.
“I regret to say that Congressman Akin has been subjected to disgraceful treatment at the hands of the GOP political bosses,” Dobson said. “They have withheld funds for his campaign, even though he won the GOP primary for the Senate seat. Karl Rove and Haley Barbour have said things about his character that are untrue. Their vicious opposition could get his Democratic opponent elected in his stead. That is curious since an Akin win could give the Senate majority to the Republicans.”
Sen. Jim Demint, R-S.C., agrees that now is no time to abandon Akin.
“This seat is critical to winning control of the Senate,” wrote DeMint on Facebook. “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. And her passionate support of Obamacare is ensuring healthcare costs go up while quality of care goes down.”
And in an interview with Daily Caller, former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich railed on the GOP elite for throwing the more conservative Akin under the bus.
“In Akin’s case, the establishment types saw a chance to get rid of a trouble-maker, replace him with somebody who’d be malleable, do it in the name of winning the election – and some of the things they said were quite extraordinary,” Gingrich said. “I mean, Karl Rove’s not-very-funny statement ‘If Akin gets murdered, don’t look for me,’ you know, I told Karl: in the age of Gabby Giffords, this isn’t funny, this isn’t a joke, you shouldn’t be able to say this in polite company.”
Gingrich continued, “I got so angry at the way they were treating Todd that I agreed to go in. I think I was the first person to go in and campaign for him, and I’m delighted now that you have a number of other people campaigning for him: Jim DeMint has come in, [Mike] Huckabee has come in, [Rick] Santorum has come in.”
And now a report in Politico says the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which earlier said it wouldn’t spend another dime on Akin’s campaign, is changing its tone.
Executive director Rob Jesmer said the committee will monitor the race, and he confirmed Akin is the “far more preferable candidate.”
“There is no question that for Missourians who believe we need to stop the reckless Washington spending, rein in the role of government in people’s lives, and finally focus on growing jobs that Todd Akin is a far more preferable candidate than liberal Senator Claire McCaskill,” Jesmer told Politico. “As with every Republican Senate candidate, we hope Todd Akin wins in November and we will continue to monitor this race closely in the days ahead.”