The Republican Party establishment and its entire campaign infrastructure has given very clear instructions to Republican Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri: you’ve done irreparable harm to your Senate campaign and it’s time to quit.
As of this morning, the right-wing congressman appears to be ignoring the directives. The Akin campaign sent out a fundraising appeal last night, apologizing for his bizarre and offensive remarks on rape, acknowledging he “made a mistake,” but concluding, “I have just begun to fight and I’m in this race to the end!”
Akin’s also doing something of a damage-control tour. Though he failed to show up for a scheduled interview on CNN last night, the Missouri Republican spent the afternoon chatting with Mike Huckabee and Sean Hannity, and overnight, released a new television ad seeking “forgiveness.”
“Rape is an evil act,” Akin says in the video. “I used the wrong words in the wrong way and for that I apologize. As the father of two daughters, I want tough justice for predators. I have a compassionate heart for the victims of sexual assault. I pray for them. The fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy. The truth is, rape has many victims…. The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold. I ask for your forgiveness.”
It still seems as if Akin is confused as to the nature of the controversy, as if his choice of words, and not the underlying sentiment, is the problem. The Republican apparently sees the controversy as a verbal gaffe, rather than an outrageous perspective on women’s health and reproductive rights.
So, what happens now?
As Rachel explained last night, there’s a key deadline at 5 p.m. today, and if that deadline passes without incident, it will be very difficult for Akin to remove his name from the ballot. It’s probably safe to say the congressman’s phone will be ringing quite a bit, with party leaders pleading with him to drop out.
But Akin will have a trump card: Missouri voters have not yet turned on him. Public Policy Polling surveyed the state yesterday and found Akin still leading Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) by one point, 44% to 43%, even though, by a 3-to-1 margin, Missouri voters disapprove of his rape comments.
Akin may be a radical, unhinged nut, but he has an “R” after his name, and for much of the state, that may be the only factor that matters.