Why Todd Akin didn't drop out: 6 theories

The Missouri congressman faced enormous pressure to bow out of his race against Sen. Claire McCaskill by Tuesday's deadline, but he's still in it to win it

Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) announces his candidacy for U.S. Senate in May 2011: Akin didn't heed calls to drop out of the race because he probably doesn't feel beholden to his party — which did
(Image credit: AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

"Most East Coast journalists and politicos I've spoken with cannot fathom how Todd Akin could possibly remain a candidate" in Missouri's U.S. Senate race, says former Missouri lawmaker Jeffrey Smith at Salon. After all, every Republican official from presidential aspirant Mitt Romney on down has urged him to drop out following his infamous comments about the pregnancy-stifling powers of "legitimate rape." The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and GOP super PAC Crossroads GPS have even said they'll pull their millions in funding from the race if he remains the candidate. But looking at the situation from Akin's point of view, and knowing his history, his decision to defy his party and keep on challenging Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) makes more sense. Here, six reasons Akin is still in the race after Tuesday's deadline to withdraw without court permission — and why he may well be in it for the long haul:

1. This is Akin's last hurrah

Todd Akin is 65, he has given up his safe House seat to run for the Senate, and he has burned any and all bridges within his party, so this is clearly his last chance "to grab the brass ring," says Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo. Why would he care what Karl Rove or Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus wants him to do, or even what might be best for his party? Akin "just isn't going to give up what he's been hungering for for a lifetime because of one bad news cycle."

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2. And he thinks he can still win

Unlike Republican officials and strategists — and, for that matter, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report — Akin doesn't think he's doomed. As he explained to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on Tuesday, this whole flap over "one word and one sentence on one day" seems "like a little bit of an overreaction." Akin might be right about his chances, too, says Markos Moulitsas at The Daily Kos. Missouri is an increasingly Republican state, and McCaskill has by far "the worst poll numbers of any incumbent this cycle," so trying to ride out the storm "wouldn't be irrational in the least." Besides, "if he quits now, he's a punch line forever," says Salon's Smith. If he stays in, "he has a 50 percent chance of being a U.S. senator as well as a punch line." What would you choose?

3. Akin doesn't owe his party anything

Republicans are pulling out all the stops to push Akin aside, but the six-term back-bencher is "totally unbeholden to the GOP establishment that needs him to drop out," says Aaron Blake at The Washington Post. He has never been a team player, and most GOP leaders and Tea Party groups backed his opponents in the ugly three-way primary he won just two weeks ago. "In other words, nobody who is telling Akin to drop out is a dear friend of his." Right, what does he have to lose by staying in the race, says Ed Kilgore at Washington Monthly, "other than the opportunistic support of people who don't know or like him and would probably have taken credit for his victory had he won without this latest incident?"

4. He's getting bad advice

"It doesn't appear [Akin] fully comprehends why the level of outrage is where it is, nor does he grasp just how much anger he has instigated from across the political spectrum," says Bethany Mandel at Commentary. That's probably because his inner circle is, quite literally, family — he fired his senior staff and named his son campaign manager in February, and his wife is a close political adviser. His relatives "have a personal, vested interest in his remaining in the race," and don't have the necessary distance to gauge the public sentiment and offer good advice.

5. He believes God wants him to run

Akin is less a politician than a true believer, "one of the foremost Christian conservatives in Congress," and "he answers to a higher authority than the chairman of his political party," says The Washington Post's Blake. So whatever blowback he gets from GOP heavyweights, it "will always play second fiddle to the man upstairs and Akin's own personal conviction." As a Republican strategist who knows Akin tells The Washington Post, "He believes that his race is providential, that God has willed his win."

6. He probably can tell that the GOP is bluffing

The biggest reason Republicans can't force Akin from the race is that "he has all the leverage," says Jeffrey Smith at Salon. Republicans need McCaskill's Senate seat to have any hope of taking the upper chamber, so it seems unlikely that they'll write him off if he stays in the race. Are the NRSC and Crossroads GPS really going to "spend hundreds of millions around the country and then leave Missouri on the table out of stubbornness"? I find that very unlikely, and "Akin, an anti-gambling fanatic, should be smart enough to call their bluff."

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.

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