National Republicans would like to forget about Todd Akin, but the infamous former Missouri GOP Senate nominee is coming back to haunt them in 2014.
Nearly two years after his disastrous Senate run, Akin is reemerging on the national stage to promote his new book, Firing Back: Taking on the Party Bosses and Media Elite to Protect Our Faith and Freedom.
That cycle, Akin defied calls from the national party — including presidential nominee Mitt Romney — to drop out of his race against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill after he made controversial comments on pregnancy and rape. His remarks ultimately contributed to his loss in a winnable race and dogged Republican candidates across the country.
In an interview with The Hill just hours before the first event of his national book tour, Akin knocked GOP establishment leaders for again applying pressure in a number of races nationwide in favor of candidates they feel will be more competitive in general elections.
“I think they’re making even worse mistakes now,” he said. “Here’s what their reasoning was: ‘Look, conservatives can’t get elected, and Todd Akin proves that. What we’re gonna do is take precious Republican money, go into states and try to select candidates rather than rely on the primary election.’
“And I think the election process should be the way we elect candidates, and not the selection process. So I think they’re wasting resources and there’s a certain arrogance in them saying, ‘Well, we know who’s the one that can win.’ ”
In particular, Akin slammed Republican leaders for meddling in Mississippi, saying they used “dishonest” tactics in their battle against Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R-Miss.) primary challenger Chris McDaniel by reaching out to African-American Democrats for votes.
The Tea Party-backed McDaniel has refused to concede to Cochran despite the senator posting a 7,667-vote lead in the June 24 runoff. Akin accused the media of being willing to “censor the truth” to oppose McDaniel.
“The thing you have to be aware of, if you’re a conservative, is sometimes people talk about a dual standard in the media, and I would say that that’s not strong enough. I would say that you’re up against people that are willing to censor the truth and protect the guilty, and there are people who are willing to completely assassinate your character even though what they’re saying isn’t true, and a certain dishonesty in campaigning,” he said.
“But I also would fault the Republican leadership at times when they resort to tactics which are dishonest in trying to destroy someone’s character.”
The GOP establishment has opposed McDaniel for much the same reason it opposed Akin: The Mississippi state senator has a history of off-color comments that could dog him in a general election campaign and give Democrats an opening in the deep-red state.
Akin still objects to the idea that he was unelectable after his gaffe. In his book, he rails against Republican leaders for piling on him and asserts that he could’ve won his race if not for the heavy GOP opposition.
When excerpts of his book went public last week, those comments sparked heavy pushback from Republican strategists wary that Akin’s return could give Democrats an opening to hammer Republicans for continuing to wage a “war on women.”
By Monday, many had begun to try to ignore his planned media blitz, hoping their silence would stifle any attention the former congressman was getting.
“We’re going to do what Todd Akin should be doing right now: stop talking,” American Crossroads spokesman Paul Lindsay said.
But Akin isn’t being silenced, especially on his most controversial and damaging comments that, in cases of “legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
In his new book he writes he regrets apologizing at all, and on Monday he admitted to The Hill that while it wasn’t “the most intelligent” way to get across his ideas, he doesn’t believe they were disrespectful.
“The first thing is, I have a poor word choice and say something that wasn’t maybe the most intelligent thing to say, but it was just words,” he said. “Certainly I didn’t mean to diminish women in any way, and I didn’t. Nor did I mean to diminish the crime.”
Akin said instead of running away from the issue or blaming his inarticulate comments, Republicans should point fingers at Democrats, accusing the Obama administration of “promoting and advancing abortions all over the world.”
“And those abortions, sometimes, in India and in China, are used for sex-selection purposes … and that’s a Democrat war on women,” he told The Hill. “There’s nothing printed or said about that.”
The book launch and tour has sparked speculation over Akin’s future political plans. He said Monday he wasn’t sure what was next for him, but “I’m really leaving it open.”
Republicans, still stung by their losses in 2012, aren’t amused.
“Seems to me like Todd Akin lecturing others about how to run campaigns is like Lindsey Lohan giving lessons in keeping a low profile,” one national GOP strategist said.