In 2006, unexpectedly bounced from his own party's ballot, Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman decided to run as an independent on a third-party line. The moment he did, he became the de facto Republican candidate, as the GOP decided to ignore its own nominee, neither funding nor mentioning him. Everyone understood what was happening, and Republicans voted for Lieberman. The state was (and is) Democratic, and Lieberman won.
In 2012, the Republicans' best way out of the mess in Missouri, now that they are left with a loon as a candidate, may be to do the same thing: Run a third-party line with the "real" candidate. But this time, actively fund and back him, with rollouts, endorsements and cash. This is because the installed nominee is not merely a blank, as he was in Connecticut, but a full-blown flake and media flame-out who needs to be wholly disowned.
Distance must be put between Todd Akin and the rest of the party and ticket, and this is best done by running against him. Link him to the Democrats and to Claire McCaskill, whose creature he does seem to be. During the primary, Democrats spent at least $1.5 million on television promoting him to Republican voters as the most conservative candidate. They also urged Democrats to go out and vote for him. By defining him now as a Trojan horse figure set to blow up and embarrass his party, Republicans could make the campaign against him appear more legitimate. They could also undermine liberals' efforts to link him to Romney, Ryan and other conservatives. If these are actively running against him, how tied together can they possibly be?
It's an open question who the third candidate should be, but it is one easily solved. Jennifer Rubin has brought up the name of John Danforth. Sarah Palin suggests Sarah Steelman (whom she endorsed), but she ran a few points behind Akin in the primary, and Missouri's "sore loser" law prevents runners-up from running in write-in campaigns. As the National Review's Jim Geraghty notes, a successful write-in candidate needs a simple name that is hard to misspell and a proven appeal to large blocs of voters, traits that he finds in one possible entrant: "If only some figure, well known to Missouri voters ... would step forward and declare, "The name's Bond ... Kit Bond."
Other ex-senators are thick on the ground, and if Steelman can't run, she could campaign with and for them, driving a stake through the fake 'war on women' that the left wing is trying to wage. Campaigns such as these would give Missouri's voters a choice other than the other two ghastly options, and sever the links the liberals are trying to forge between Akin and saner Republicans. Who knows? They might even win.
Having nothing to say, Democrats are avid to run on distractions, from Seamus the dog to Rafalca the horse to Harvey, the invisible friend of Harry Reid, who keeps feeding him tidbits about Romney's taxes. They will continue to feed such distractions to the public till November, to drown out all talk of real issues like downturns and downgrades and "jobs," the three-letter word that Joe Biden immortalized. This will never blow over, until it is made to. Unless Akin bows out, there's just one way to do it.
Examiner Columnist Noemie Emery is contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."