GOP wallets open for Akin

When Republican Party and conservative leaders applied pressure on Rep. Todd Akin (R) to step aside in the Missouri Senate race a month ago, they solemnly promised that he wouldn’t see a dime of their money. Under fire for extreme ignorance about how lady parts work (no, a woman’s uterus cannot magically block sperm from “legitimate” rapes), Akin discussed matters with his god and decided that as long as the race remained close, the money would appear like manna in the desert.

And why not? Democrat Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillCalif. gov candidates battle for second place Senate panel advances Trump's CIA nominee Five votes to watch in fight over Trump's CIA nominee MORE is among the least popular senators in the nation in a state trending so conservative that the once-presidential battleground was ceded early to the GOP. So while Akin has managed to turn an easy victory into a hotly contested battle, he’s still very much in contention. At 27 percent, Missouri has one of the largest populations of white evangelicals — a key Akin constituency and one that cheered on his rape remarks. It’s also one of the older and whiter states, presenting demographic challenges for McCaskill.

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Also forgotten amid GOP angst over his rape remarks — Akin’s words weren’t outside of the Republican mainstream. Remember, 227 GOP members of Congress co-sponsored legislation to create a new class of “forcible rape” in an apparent attempt to differentiate it from the kinder, gentler version. Either way, there was nothing in what he said that would dissuade his state’s growing conservative base from continuing to support him.

So even though polling in the race swung from a guaranteed Republican pickup to a slight McCaskill advantage, Akin remains competitive. He smartly reasoned that he could weather the storm, and shrewdly bet that Republican money czars would eventually reassess their promises to stay away if the Senate majority hinged on the seat.

The final ballot deadline passed Sept. 25, and it wasn’t long after that conservative groups started rethinking matters.

Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-S.C.) Senate Conservative Fund is sending $300,000 to Akin. Home-state Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSenators near deal on sexual harassment policy change GOP, Dem lawmakers come together for McCain documentary The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R), who had called on Akin to quit the race, suddenly embraced him: “I think at the end of the day, that race does largely become a debate about the majority in the Senate.” GOP Sens. DeMint, Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA Graham: Trump will 'end North Korea’s threat to the American homeland' in his first term Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers weigh in after Texas school shooting MORE (S.C.), Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnMr. President, let markets help save Medicare Pension insolvency crisis only grows as Congress sits on its hands Paul Ryan should realize that federal earmarks are the currency of cronyism MORE (Okla.) and James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeDefense bill moves forward with lawmakers thinking about McCain Overnight Energy: EPA moves to roll back chemical plant safety rule | NASA chief says humans contribute to climate change | Pruitt gets outside lawyer House lawmakers to unveil water resources bill on Friday MORE (Okla.) are hosting a fundraiser for Akin today in Washington. Meanwhile, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) endorsed Akin the day after the ballot deadline: “There is no question that for Missourians who believe we need to stop the reckless Washington spending, rein in the role of government in people’s lives and finally focus on growing jobs in this country, that Todd Akin is a far more preferable candidate.” The committee also hinted it might put money into the race if the situation warranted, promising to “monitor” the contest.

And while NRSC Chairman John CornynJohn CornynPressure rising on GOP after Trump–DOJ fight’s latest turn Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA This week: House GOP regroups after farm bill failure MORE (Texas) backpedaled on Monday, saying he didn’t think it was a “winnable race,” the polling contradicts his pessimism. It certainly looks tighter, and in much more favorable terrain, than Maine or Massachusetts — both states in which the NRSC is engaged. But there’s another factor at play: Senate Republicans suddenly find themselves on the defensive — unexpectedly fighting to hold seats in Arizona, Indiana, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine, while seeing their surefire pickups in North Dakota and Missouri turn into real dogfights.

Despite recent hopes of taking the Senate, Republicans now face the prospect of losing seats. And in that calculus, a damaged Akin currently rates low. For now.

Moulitsas is the publisher and founder of Daily Kos (dailykos.com)