Parties' shifting tactics seen in 2 swing states

Support for Akin worries some in GOP

John Eligon / New York Times News Service /

Published Oct 7, 2012 at 05:00AM

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For establishment Republicans, it is decision time in the Missouri Senate race. Should they return to Rep. Todd Akin’s corner?

Many quickly withdrew their support for Akin weeks ago after his controversial remarks about abortion (and belief that victims of “legitimate rape” have a biological mechanism to fight off pregnancy), hoping to force him aside so another Republican candidate could battle the Democratic incumbent, Sen. Claire McCaskill.

But Akin called their bluff. He stayed in the race, reckoning that election math would oblige them to stick with him. Now, with Akin’s name legally bound to the ballot, the election approaching and new polling data presenting a clearer idea of his chances, Republicans are deliberating whether to renege on their reneging.

Newt Gingrich, who attended a fundraiser for Akin on Sept. 24, said Republicans who rushed to judgment needed to consider the error of their decision. “Akin’s not the only one who made a mistake. Just as he had to eat a little bit of crow, there are some other folks” who will, too.

But Republicans should focus on more than the Senate math, said John Danforth, a former GOP senator from Missouri who distanced himself from Akin in August. “Akin has come to symbolize a version of the Republican Party that’s just not acceptable to an awful lot of people. I don’t know if he can win or not in the election in the Senate race, but I think this is bigger than one Senate seat. I think it’s the brand of the Republican Party, and I think he taints the Republican Party.”

While Danforth is maintaining his opposition to Akin, other Republicans are returning to his corner. Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri and two other former senators from the state, Christopher Bond and Jim Talent, recently endorsed Akin.

While he welcomes the return of deep-pocketed donors and believes that some will inevitably say, “Hey, I was too quick to judge,” Perry Akin, Akin’s son and campaign manager, said he believed the campaign was on the right track. “There’s a lot of contrast between (the two campaigns’) messages. We have adequate funding to be able to present that to the voters so they can make a decision on it.”