GOP Trying to Relieve an Akin Headache

BY Christina Bellantoni and Terence Burlij  August 21, 2012 at 8:56 AM EDT

Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo.; photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images

Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., is facing pressure to drop out of the race from his own party. Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/CQ/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Rep. Todd Akin was a little-known conservative Republican on his way to joining Sen. Roy Blunt as Missouri’s junior senator. Is he now on his way to joining Christine O’Donnell of Delaware as an also-ran who cost the Republican Party a Senate seat and control of the chamber?

Sen. Claire McCaskill, elected in a Democratic wave in 2006 to unseat Sen. Jim Talent, has been fighting a headwind in hopes of a second term. Democrats made it no secret they found Akin to be a weak rival for the embattled senator, and she boosted him up in a TV spot before the primary this summer. But Democrats also privately acknowledged they weren’t very hopeful she could survive on Nov. 6. McCaskill has shunned help from her party, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee was focusing its efforts and resources elsewhere.

But that was before Akin tried to say there was a difference between types of rape, before everyone paying attention to politics in a slow summer news week learned his name. And as national attention on Akin’s record reached a fevered pitch Monday, with reporters scouring C-Span for his past statements on the House floor and researching his stances, the cash game was upended.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, called Akin to inform him the party was withdrawing the $5 million it committed to the race earlier in the process.

The Houston Chronicle reported that Cornyn “did just about everything he could do” to force Akin out.

From the story:

But Cornyn and his National Republican Senatorial Committee staff made it clear to Akin today that it is in the best interests of the Republican Party that he withdraw from the Senate race. The Texas senator reinforced that message with a personal call to the embattled Missouri congressman.

“It has been communicated to the congressman from the committee that by staying in this race, he is putting not just this seat but the GOP’s prospects for a Senate majority at great risk,” said a Republican source with direct knowledge of the conversations. “And if he does choose to go forward, the NRSC will not be investing in his candidacy.”

The GOP group Crossroads also pulled out of the race, even after advertising against McCaskill for a year, painting her as supportive of President Obama and wrong for Missouri.

Campaign finance reports were due at midnight but aren’t required to be filed online, so it’s hard to get a clear picture of Akin’s financial circumstances.

Despite the uproar, Missouri remains a tossup, with an automated survey from left-leaning Public Policy Polling conducted Monday showing Akin leading McCaskill, 44 percent to 43 percent, even though 75 percent of voters said they thought the congressman’s comments were inappropriate.

The deadline for Akin to exit the Nov. 6 election is 5 p.m. Tuesday. But no Democrat has won more than 50 percent of the vote in Missouri in nearly a decade, and the state has only trended more conservative in recent years. Voters here in many cases will show up to oppose President Obama, and Republicans were counting on this seat.

Akin, for his part, spent the day on the defensive, explaining himself in long interviews to Mike Huckabee and Sean Hannity.

Politico’s Alexander Burns is reporting Tuesday that Akin has recorded a television ad “asking for ‘forgiveness’ from the voters of his state and acknowledging that he used ‘the wrong words in the wrong way’ when he suggested last weekend that rape rarely leads to pregnancy.”

Burns wrote that the spot “shows Akin speaking directly to the camera and explaining that he has compassion for the victims of rape.”

From the story:

“Rape is an evil act. I used the wrong words in the wrong way and for that I apologize. As the father of two daughters, I want tough justice for predators. I have a compassionate heart for the victims of sexual assault. I pray for them,” Akin says. “The fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy. The truth is, rape has many victims.”

Akin continues: “The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold. I ask for your forgiveness.”

The spot was produced by the Strategy Group for Media, which guided Akin to an upset victory in a multi-candidate Republican primary.

Both President Obama and his GOP rival Mitt Romney addressed the controversy Monday.

During an impromptu appearance in the White House briefing room, Mr. Obama seized on Akin’s comments to highlight what he’s already been saying for months: that his party is better for women.

“The views expressed were offensive. Rape is rape. And the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we’re talking about doesn’t make sense to the American people and certainly doesn’t make sense to me,” the president said. “So, what I think these comments do underscore is why we shouldn’t have a bunch of politicians, a majority of whom are men, making health care decisions on behalf of women.”

Romney denounced Akin’s remarks in an interview with WMUR-TV in New Hampshire.

“His comments about rape were deeply offensive. And I can’t defend what he said. I can’t defend him,” Romney said.

NewsHour regulars Stuart Rothenberg and Susan Page talked with Gwen Ifill on Monday to give their takes on what it’ll mean up and down the ticket.

“[A]ny day that the Republicans are not talking about President Obama, his record, the economy, jobs is a day that they have lost an opportunity,” Rothenberg said. “And so we just saw that video of Mitt Romney having to answer a question about Todd Akin. He’s off-message, he’s on the defensive. We’re not — Todd Akin, this is not where the Republicans want to be.”

But he doubted the longevity of this issue as one of the campaign’s talking points.

Page noted Akin’s remarks were a “gift” not just to McCaskill but to the party because of the “impact on the Republican brand, especially with women.”

“Remember, women are among the prime group of swing voters that politicians are looking for,” she said.

Watch the segment here or below:

BROKEN WASHINGTON

On Monday night, Judy Woodruff began a series of book conversations about broken Washington.

She began with E.J. Dionne of Brookings, who argues in his new book, “Our Divided Political Heart,” that Republicans allowed the country to become polarized, forgetting the constitutional roots that keep “we” the people in mind.

Watch the discussion here or below:

In related news, a Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation study finds that independents favor cooperation and are dissatisfied with the political system, Jon Cohen and Dan Balz report.

RNC-YOU NEXT WEEK

NewsHour politics production assistant Alex Bruns has another dispatch (and food recommendation) from Tampa, Fla., where our Republican National Convention preparations continue to advance ahead of gavel-to-gavel coverage beginning next week.

The RNC announced its list of speakers for Monday, including Ann Romney, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Texas Senate nominee Ted Cruz.

Meanwhile, the interior of the Tampa Bay Times Forum continues to come along. The stage is in place and represents the keystone of the RNC’s renovations to the Forum, which run an estimated $20 million. Check out these nifty facts about the stage.

Another restaurant recommendation for you: The Taco Bus offers (reasonably) authentic Mexican-style tacos for a little more than you would pay in Juarez but with much less…um, let’s say, border town ambiance. The food truck-turned-sit-down-joint makes a D.C.-eater feel right at home.

2012 LINE ITEMS

  • Are you an undecided voter in Virginia? Here’s your chance to weigh in on the convention and help us with our reporting. If you’re willing to talk to the NewsHour after each nomination speech, fill out this form.

  • Romney “boasts nearly $186 million in reserve through July … more than $62 million more than the $124 million Obama’s full operation — his campaign committee, the Democratic National Committee and a joint committee called the Obama Victory Fund — reported through July,” Politico notes.

  • The Wall Street Journal looks at voter registration efforts.

  • Politico’s James Hohmann looks at five flashpoints in the Republican Party’s 2012 platform.

  • The Boston Globe reports on what the Republican platform for the convention says about gays and lesbians.

  • The Globe also delves into Romney’s Mormon faith.

  • NPR explores a swing county in Wisconsin as part of its “First and Main” series.

TOP TWEETS

OUTSIDE THE LINES

Cassie M. Chew contributed to this report.

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • Paul Ryan campaigns in Pennsylvania with an event in Carnegie at 11:25 a.m. and West Chester at 4 p.m.

  • President Obama attends a campaign event in Columbus, Ohio, at 1 p.m. and another in Reno, Nev., at 8 p.m.

  • Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Minnesota with an event in Minneapolis at 1:30 p.m. and in Rochester at 6:15 p.m.

  • Mitt Romney has no public events scheduled.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:


For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers, @kpolantz, @indiefilmfan, @tiffanymullon, @dePeystah, @meenaganesan and @abbruns.