By Alexandra Jaffe - 02/13/13 10:00 AM EST
Ever since Republicans failed to win the Senate majority last November, the GOP establishment has been gearing up to prevent candidates with “Todd Akin problems” from spoiling the party’s chances in 2014.
But the man who has come to symbolize the GOP’s electoral defeat — former Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) himself — warns that efforts by Republican bigwigs to weigh in on primaries will backfire.
Akin has kept a relatively low profile since his loss last November to incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill (D), a defeat blamed on his controversial remarks about rape and pregnancy.
But that hasn’t stopped others from talking about the former congressman. His name almost always crops up as a prime example of why it’s imperative for the Republican establishment to be involved in future primaries.
GOP strategist Karl Rove recently co-founded the Conservative Victory Project, a super-PAC that will engage in 2014 primaries with the aim of finding the “most conservative candidate who can win.” Rove singled out Akin and failed Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock (R) for scorn, using them as examples of flawed candidates who cost the GOP easy pickups in 2012.
“Some people think the best we can do is Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock — they’re wrong,” Rove told Fox News.
Long before Akin uttered the words “legitimate rape,” he was not the favorite of the Republican establishment in the Missouri Senate primary, partly because of his penchant for controversial remarks.
Akin was, however, the GOP candidate McCaskill had wanted to face; the incumbent considered him her best shot to retain her seat in red-state Missouri.
After his comments — that pregnancy is rare in cases of “legitimate rape” because the “female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down” — Akin faced a barrage of calls urging him to drop out of the race. He lost the support of nearly every Republican outside group engaged in 2012 races.
“That was a frustrating situation,” Akin said of the campaign.
Steven Law, the Conservative Victory Project’s president, recently cited Akin when expressing concerns that outspoken Iowa Rep. Steve King (R), a Tea Party favorite, might run for Senate to replace retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D). Law said he was concerned about Steve King’s “Todd Akin problem.”
Law’s comments reflect a concern that the Iowa lawmaker’s off-the-cuff style, similar to Akin’s, could make him prone to gaffes and cost the party another winnable Senate seat.
Akin insists that he isn’t offended that he is being used as a scapegoat for the establishment wing of the GOP.
“It’s not a personal thing to me at this point. I’ve sort of grown up and moved along,” he said.
“We try to do the best things that we can for our nation, and if we take a couple of shots along the way, that’s OK.”
But he lambasted the Conservative Victory Project, calling the super-PAC’s name “misleading.” As Akin sees it, the group “is trying to get rid of conservatives, which is very thinly disguised.”
That effort, he said, could spark a backlash.
“I think people are going to be wise to that attempt to bypass primary elections. To me, I think that’s tremendously disrespectful to the grassroots Republican primary voters,” he said.
Already, the CVP has seen heavy opposition from grassroots and Tea Party groups. Tea Party Patriots has launched its own political action committee, which is likely to engage directly with the CVP in a number of races.
Akin isn’t sure if he’ll be a part of that opposition to the establishment in 2014, but he didn’t rule out a future run for office.
“I think I’m going to keep an oar in the water, but I don’t know exactly what form that would be,” he said, suggesting that media punditry, lobbying, writing or teaching could be in his future.
“Never say never,” Akin added when pressed on whether he’d consider coming back to Congress.
For now, the former Senate candidate is working to pay off nearly $240,000 in debt left over from his 2012 campaign. He is selling off his office furniture and memorabilia and closing his operation down.
Akin said that since his campaign, two big things had changed: “I have a lot more freedom and less money.”
But he didn’t seem concerned about his future plans.
“Life has all these different seasons, and the trick is to try to take each one as they come along and just see where they go,” he said.