The deadline for Rep. Todd Akin to withdraw from the Missouri Senate race is 5:00 p.m. today. For now, Akin seems intent on hanging in there. He has a new ad out called “Forgiveness,” in which he apologizes for his infamous remark. Akin states: “The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold. I ask for your forgiveness.”
Meanwhile, the pressure mounts for Akin to step down. Yesterday, at least two GOP Senators asked Akin to quit the race, and Senator Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, urged him seriously to consider doing so. Meanwhile, Paul Ryan, who serves with Akin in the House, reportedly had a “not brief” talk with the Missouri man yesterday. One can surmise that the the subject of Akin’s withdrawal came up.
Perhaps most ominously of all, the Tea Party Express said that Akin must go. Without the support of either the Republican establishment or its insurgent wing, Akin’s path to election may well be blocked.
Make no mistake, statements like Akin’s can easily turn an election around. Think of the 2006 Senate Virginia Senate race. Incumbent George Allen had a comfortable-seeming lead over James Webb until he used the word “Macaca.” That turned the tide, and Allen lost his seat, albeit very narrowly.
To be sure, Allen also had to cope with a rising Democratic tide in 2006, as well as a state that was becoming less Red. Akin doesn’t have to worry about either of these phenomena this year in Missouri. But his comment seems even more potentially deadly than George Allen’s.
I don’t recall anyone asking Allen to quit the race, nor do I believe that his funding dried up, as Akin’s seems to doing. Allen wasn’t considered toxic to Republicans in 2006. This year, with the Democrats accusing Republicans of conducting a war-on-women, Akin is viewed as precisely toxic.
None of this means that Akin will withdraw. Obviously, he has a huge investment in becoming Senator, and certainly doesn’t want to go out on this note. He may not view the odds of defeating the unpopular McCaskill as much longer than the odds were of emerging from the tough three-way primary race that he won.
Maybe they aren’t; there isn’t enough time cogently to determine the odds through polling. But the odds of an Akin victory certainly are long enough to keep Republican operatives awake at night.