Ignoring pleas from the GOP's top brass, including Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) has vowed to stay in his race for a Missouri Senate seat. The near-consensus is that Akin's controversial comments on rape and abortion — in which he claimed that victims of "legitimate rape" rarely get pregnant because the female body can magically "shut that whole thing down" — have irrevocably poisoned his campaign to unseat Sen. Claire McCaskill, who is considered one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats up for re-election. The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) has threatened to pull funding from Akin's campaign if he doesn't drop out, and the six-term congressman now faces the lonely prospect of running a campaign "in near total isolation," says Manu Raju at Politico. However, Akin insists he can win. Here, five reasons he may be right:
1. Voters have short memories
Akin is hoping that if he "holds out for a couple more days until the political spotlight moves to the national conventions, he could get enough time to lay low and figure out how to stage a comeback," says Mitch Weber at NBC's local affiliate in Kansas City, Mo. Indeed, it's not unthinkable that Akin could survive this controversy, given the "short attention span and memory of an average voter," Joel Sawyer, a GOP consultant, tells Raju.
2. He could succeed by running as an outsider
With the GOP abandoning him, Akin has portrayed himself as a man of principle standing up to "big party people." He's now "outside the party structure, and thus more appealing to 'political bravehearts' (his words) who judge themselves independent," says Peter Grier at The Christian Science Monitor. "Given current national attitudes about the poisonously partisan atmosphere in Washington," it's at least possible that the veteran congressman can successfully repackage himself as an outsider.
3. His opponent is spectacularly unpopular
Despite Akin's preposterous comments, he is still leading McCaskill by a percentage point, according to a flash poll from Public Policy Polling. Though a strong majority of Republicans disapprove of Akin's comments, the poll suggests, many plan to vote for him anyway. "Right-leaning voters in Missouri don't seem to care about Akin's debacle nearly as much as they care about loathing" McCaskill, says David Nir at Daily Kos. Akin emerged from the Republican primary with a hefty lead over McCaskill, and his rape remarks simply move their race into the "toss-up" category, says Steve Kornacki at Salon.
4. Missouri is a solidly red state
Missouri's disapproval of McCaskill — a prominent Obama ally who rode to power in 2006 on an anti-Bush wave — stems largely from the fact that the state has grown increasingly conservative. Missouri "is friendlier turf for Republican candidates" than many other toss-up states, leaving it an open question whether McCaskill can take advantage of Akin's "politically toxic outburst," says Kornacki.
5. Republicans will come back to Akin
Sure, the entire party is running from Akin now. But when his Senate race is "still neck and neck next month, or into October," the NRSC and other Republican outfits "will suck it up and start putting money back into the race," says David Kurtz at Talking Points Memo. Republicans really need McCaskill's seat if they hope to win back the Senate, and "the high-minded denunciations" will give way to the burning need to win the election.