By Lisa Mascaro, Tribune Washington Bureau –
KIRKWOOD, Mo. — Newt Gingrich predicted national Republicans would begin funding Todd Akin’s Senate campaign again by October, saying that doing so was a “moral obligation.”
Campaigning with Akin, the Republican challenger to Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, Gingrich said that Republican unity — and the chance to control the Senate — needed to take priority over any discomfort over Akin’s remark last month about “legitimate rape.”
The Republican National Committee “has a moral obligation to run a single victory ticket in the state” and support Akin, Gingrich said. He headlined a $500-a-plate lunchtime fundraiser for the conservative lawmaker at an Italian bistro that drew about 40 guests and pink-clad protesters backing Planned Parenthood.
Republican leaders, including Mitt Romney, the party’s presidential nominee, tried unsuccessfully to get Akin to step aside after his comment that women who were victims of “legitimate rape” would be unlikely to get pregnant because women’s bodies have a way of shutting down to prevent conception.
The Republican congressman repeatedly has declined to quit the race and has apologized for the comment, saying he “misspoke,” though he also campaigned on the support he received from those who shared his view. He is staunchly opposed to abortion, including in cases of rape. The deadline for him to petition a court for permission to withdraw from the ballot is Tuesday, and he repeated his decision not to quit.
“For about the 100th time, I am in the race,” Akin said Monday, as he appeared with Gingrich at a historic train station in downtown Kirkwood, a St Louis suburb.
Having Gingrich accompany him for the day has given some momentum to Akin’s campaign after other Republicans here and in Washington have shunned him and withdrawn financial support.
Gingrich said such sentiment was understandable in the immediate aftermath of Akin’s comments.
“For the first 48 hours, fine. Now it’s stupid,” he said.
The state tilts Republican, and McCaskill’s seat had been one of the best opportunities for the GOP to defeat an incumbent as the party tries to regain control of the Senate. Failing to mount a serious campaign against McCaskill could help keep the seat — and the Senate majority — in Democratic control.
The head of the RNC, Reince Priebus, said Sunday in an interview with ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” that the party would not shift its position. “We’re not going to play in Missouri with Todd Akin. I can tell you that,” he said.