By Kevin McDermott, St. Louis Post-Dispatch –
ST. LOUIS — As expected, Todd Akin let pass the final deadline for his withdrawal from the U.S. Senate race Tuesday, defiantly predicting to supporters in St. Louis that he will beat Sen. Claire McCaskill.
“I was given a trust” in the August Republican primary that put him on the ballot, Akin told about 200 enthusiastic supporters in a ballroom at the downtown Renaissance, before kicking off a statewide bus tour. “I have a purpose going into November and that’s to replace Claire McCaskill,” the incumbent Democrat.
McCaskill, meanwhile, wasted no time Tuesday in opening up on Akin over his controversial comments last month on rape and pregnancy, now that she can do so without fear of driving him off the ballot and getting a new opponent.
“Todd Akin said only some rapes are legitimate,” an announcer says in a McCaskill web ad posted Tuesday, marking her campaign’s first real foray into an issue that has rocked the national political landscape. “What will he say next?”
McCaskill has been mostly silent about Akin’s bombshell remarks last month that rape seldom causes pregnancy, at times even defending his right to stay on the ballot as his fellow Republicans pressed him to leave.
Her strategy was clearly to try to keep him on the ballot until Tuesday’s deadline, so Republicans wouldn’t be able to replace him with a stronger candidate. State and national political analysts have predicted McCaskill’s campaign would begin hammering at the controversy once Tuesday’s deadline passed.
Akin’s strategy is to continue his shoestring campaign long enough to convince traditional Republican funding sources who’d fled during the controversy to come back to him. One big GOP donor is already considering doing just that, after vowing not to: U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, whose Senate Conservatives Fund is in discussions with Akin about providing funding.
The PAC’s director sent a memo Tuesday to supporters saying “circumstances have changed” in the Missouri race, declaring it still “winnable,” and polling donors on whether the PAC should jump in, according to a report Tuesday in Politico.
One of the sticking points for DeMint has been Akin’s defense as a congressman of earmark spending, meaning targeting federal dollars to projects in a legislator’s home district. DeMint has been an anti-earmark crusader, a cause in which McCaskill has joined him in the past.
Akin has recently said he now supports a ban on earmarks, a switch McCaskill alleges is designed to get at DeMint’s PAC support. A McCaskill statement to reporters Tuesday referred to it as “selling his support for an earmark ban.”