Rep. Todd Akin's decision this week to stay in the Missouri Senate race despite voter outrage over his "legitimate rape" comments has fired up conservatives who are planning to pour supporters and money into the race to beat incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill.
"This is a race that can be won," Tony Perkins, president of the influential Family Research Council, told Secrets. "It's an important race, it's a winnable race," added Perkins.
He told Secrets that his Family Research Council Action PAC is planning a week-long, statewide bus tour of Missouri during the last week of the election. He also plans to put ads on radio, devote part of his weekly radio address that reaches Missouri to Akin, and bring in conservative stars like Phyllis Schlafly to barnstorm for Akin.
The race has been tumultuous ever since Akin made the comments, which he apologized for. Establishment Republicans like Karl Rove and the National Republican Senatorial Committee pushed him to get out as his poll numbers dropped. The GOP felt that McCaskill would be easy to beat until Akin flubbed.
Perkins said that the establishment criticism resulted in a conservative backlash. "What has made this even more of a cause for conservatives, social conservatives, is that the establishment tried to throw him under the bus," said Perkins.
Akin ignored the calls to quit, supported by some conservatives like Perkins. And now that he's decided to stay in, the establishment is slowly moving to support him. Allies told Secrets that he is now just four percentage points behind McCaskill in the polls, though others suggest the gap is closer to 10 percent.
Plus, said Akin associates, Mitt Romney is running 10 points ahead of President Obama in conservative Missouri, and that may provide a boost for Akin. "It's hard to picture a conservative/GOP/Tea Party voter who pulls the lever for Romney and and then pulls it for McCaskill," emailed one associate to Secrets. "Romney may well lose nationwide, while his coat tails pull Akin across a winner."
Perkins added that conservative turnout is likely to be much higher in Missouri and that should also help Akin. "The intensity on the conservative side is 10 times higher," he said. "I think turnout is going to be much higher. That means Todd Akin is in a position to win this race. It's not a done deal, but he is positioned to win."