Political controversies often have a strange lifecycle. In one of the more common trajectories, an event occurs, it’s followed by a backlash, which then leads to a backlash to the backlash.
Take Todd Akin, for example, whose public standing was ruined by his rape comments last weekend, but who is now finding new allies who disapprove of the Republican establishment leading the lynch mob.
While an array of Republican leaders and conservative activists have called on GOP Rep. Todd Akin to withdraw from the Missouri Senate race, Mike Huckabee is rallying to the embattled congressman’s defense.
In an email to supporters Thursday, Huckabee solicited donations for Akin’s campaign and blasted national GOP leaders. Huckabee wrote that he was “shocked” that some Republicans tried to end Akin’s political career over a “misstatement.”
“If Todd Akin loses the Senate seat, I will not blame Todd Akin,” Huckabee, who endorsed Akin in the crowded GOP primary, wrote in the email. “He made his mistake, but was man enough to admit it and apologize. I’m waiting for the apology from whoever the genius was on the high pedestals of our party who thought it wise to not only shoot our wounded, but run over him with tanks and trucks and then feed his body to the liberal wolves.”
If you read Huckabee’s full, 800-word message of support, you’ll notice a few dog-whistle phrases. As Ed Kilgore noted, “The references to Akin being ‘left behind’ and ‘crucified’ obviously have some resonance with Huck’s large tribe of fans.”
As for the larger context, it’s likely Huckabee has partisan/electoral intentions – Huckabee wants a Republican to win the seat, and it looks like Akin will remain in the race – but let’s also not forget that Huckabee almost certainly agrees with Akin’s ridiculous sentiments.
As Rachel noted on the show on Monday, in 1998, a Republican named Fay Boozman was a U.S. Senate candidate in Arkansas taking a hard-right line on abortion rights, going so far as to say there was no need for a rape victims’ exception to making abortion criminal because “God’s little shield” prevented victims from becoming pregnant.
When Boozman lost badly, Huckabee put Boozman in charge of the Arkansas Department of Health. Seriously.
Is it really any wonder Huckabee is enthusiastically supporting Akin?
Huckabee’s backing will likely encourage Akin to stick around even longer, and send a signal to the religious right movement that the right-wing candidate deserves evangelicals’ support.
Indeed, I suspect the Republican establishment will come around in time, too. The GOP’s major pillars – the RNC, NRSC, Rove’s attack operation, etc. – said in no uncertain terms that they’ll abandon Akin if he stays in the race, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this was a large bluff, intended to force the candidate’s hand.
In early October, if the race in Missouri appears competitive, and control of the Senate is on the line, will the Republican establishment really stay on the sidelines, simply because Akin is a nut who ignored their advice? I seriously doubt it.
This probably won’t happen quickly, and it’s likely GOP insiders will keep the pressure on in the hopes that Akin can still be coaxed out, but if social conservatives continue rally behind Akin and he refuses to budge, it seems inevitable that Republicans will coalesce eventually.