DeMint might throw Akin a lifeline

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) says he will consider throwing his weighty financial support behind Rep. Todd Akin (R), the Missouri Senate candidate who has been shunned by party leaders in Washington.

DeMint said the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), which has pulled its funding from the Missouri race, should reconsider its decision if Akin continues his candidacy.

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The senator said backing Akin in Missouri, a red state, might be a better bet for winning a GOP seat than pouring money into blue states such as Maine and Hawaii that are likely to go for President Obama in November.

“I’m certainly looking at the race now. Todd’s a good conservative; he’s been a good representative for a long time. He did make a mistake and said it was a mistake,” DeMint said.

GOP leaders in Washington, as well as the party’s nominee, Mitt Romney, urged Akin to drop his Senate bid after he made controversial comments about “legitimate rape.” Akin apologized for the remarks but has refused to leave the race.

DeMint said if Akin stays in the Senate race past the state deadline for withdrawal, “I will certainly reconsider what I do.”

“I think we need to take every Republican candidate around the country and do what we can to elect them. He’s certainly within striking distance,” he said. “If the people of Missouri — if they’re going to throw him out because of one mistake, that’s tough.

“I’m going to look at the race and I would encourage [NRSC Chairman] John Cornyn [(R-Texas)] to look at all races where Republicans have a chance to win,” DeMint said. “We have some resources we can put in races, and we’re looking where else we want to invest.”

DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund has raised millions of dollars for conservative Senate candidates this election cycle, including Richard Mourdock in Indiana, Rep. Jeff Flake (R) in Arizona, Ted Cruz in Texas and Josh Mandel in Ohio.

The fund invested $2.1 million in Cruz’s primary race and has given $957,000 to Mandel’s bid to unseat Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

Under Missouri state election law, Akin must decide by Sept. 25 whether to remove himself from the ballot. But the de facto deadline may have already passed because military and overseas ballots must be mailed by Sept. 22. Several jurisdictions have already placed the orders with printing companies.

Akin has shown no indication that he will drop his challenge to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), and predicted Republican outside group money would pour back into the race once the deadline passes.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) will attend a $500-per-plate fundraiser for Akin on Monday. He told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Republicans need Missouri to win the Senate.

“I don't see how the Republicans are going to win the Senate if they throw away a seat like Missouri,” he said.

Missouri Republicans have a bold streak of social conservatism — Rick Santorum handily defeated Romney in the Missouri primary — and they have shown far more willingness to stick with Akin than GOP leaders in Washington.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who has a strong following among social conservatives, slammed party leaders in August for abandoning Akin.

Polls show Akin has kept pace with McCaskill despite the decision by the NRSC and the pro-GOP super-PAC Crossroads GPS to pull television ads in the state.

A survey by Rasmussen Reports last week showed McCaskill with a 6-point lead, 49 percent to 43.

Cornyn told The Hill late Thursday afternoon that he would not reconsider the decision to spend money on Akin’s campaign.

“We’re done,” he said.

Instead, the Senate Republican political committee has sought to broaden the playing field by threatening what have been considered likely Democratic wins.

The NRSC recently made a $600,000 ad buy in Maine to support Republican candidate Charlie Summers, who is in a three-way race with independent Angus King and Democrat Cynthia Dill.

But DeMint said polls show Missouri is a more likely Republican pick-up than Maine.

“The polls would suggest it is,” he said.

DeMint and Cornyn clashed during the 2010 election cycle, when DeMint supported conservative insurgents such as Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Cornyn backed more centrist candidates.

Other GOP senators said they support Cornyn’s decision to stay out of Missouri. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), a member of the Senate Tea Party Caucus, said Democrats would likely unleash a barrage of negative advertising attacking Akin for his rape comment once it is certain he will remain on the ballot.

“While the polls appear to be relatively close now, my guess is the Democratic candidate and the Democrats are just waiting until Sept. 25 expires before it becomes a messy campaign,” Moran said. “The Democrats worked to get him nominated, so my guess is the campaign by Democrats will lay low until it’s not possible for him to get out of the race.”

Akin started a firestorm in August when he argued against creating exceptions for abortion in cases of rape by questioning the likelihood of pregnancy in such cases.

“It seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down,” he said.

A few hours later, Akin said he misspoke walked back the statement.

“I believe deeply in the protection of all life, and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action. I also recognize that there are those who, like my opponent, support abortion, and I understand I may not have their support in this election,” he said.