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Conservatives come to Akin's rescue in Missouri

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Politics,Congress,Susan Ferrechio,Campaign 2012,Politics Digest

Money and support are trickling back into Rep. Todd Akin's U.S. Senate campaign in Missouri a month after he was abandoned by the Republican Party for claiming that victims of "legitimate rape" can't get pregnant.

Despite intense pressure in August from nearly all GOP factions to get out of the race, Akin clung to his campaign, remaining competitive in the polls against Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill. And while party officials are still keeping their distance from Akin, notable conservatives, including former presidential contender Rick Santorum and Sen. Jim DeMint, a Tea Party favorite, are coming to Akin's defense.

Akin's one-time lead over McCaskill is now gone, and he is trailing one of the Democrats that Republicans targeted in their quest to take control of the Senate. Still, Akin's supporters insist he's within striking distance of winning.

"I think that this race is now reverting back to normal," Akin campaign spokesman Rick Tyler told The Washington Examiner on Wednesday "And normal would be a referendum on Claire McCaskill and her record."

Akin's decision to remain in the race became official Tuesday, when he let pass a final deadline to withdraw. Ignoring renewed calls to step down, Akin launched a four-day statewide bus tour with conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly.

"Some Republicans and interest groups may, in fact, be eating their words and backing Congressman Akin because their ultimate concern is a Republican takeover of the Senate," George Connor, a Missouri State University political science professor, told The Examiner.

Republicans must win at least four additional seats to take control of the Senate. Missouri had seemed like a sure win for the GOP, in part because the state is trending conservative and because McCaskill backed Obama's health care reform law, which is unpopular in her home state. That calculus changed dramatically after Akin claimed rape victims can't get pregnant.

Virtually the entire Republican Party, including presidential nominee Mitt Romney, called on Akin to step down so another Republican could challenge McCaskill. The party pulled millions of dollars it was going to spend on ads backing Akin, though the Senate campaign committee hinted Wednesday that it might still provide him money.

But it is some of the nation's most prominent conservatives who are riding to Akin's rescue, including Santorum, DeMint, former House Speaker and presidential contender Newt Gingrich and Tea Party favorite Mike Huckabee.

"It is very important that Republicans across this country understand that Todd Akin is key to our winning control of the Senate," Gingrich said during an appearance with Akin.

The Missouri Republican Party continues to back Akin, as does the state's Republican U.S. Senator, Roy Blunt.

Akin continues to face major financial hurdles, however. The Republican National Committee and the Senate Republicans' fundraising arm withdrew their financial support, leaving Akin with just about $500,000 in his campaign coffers, a fraction of McCaskill's $3.5 million.

Six weeks out from Election Day, conservatives are helping Akin rebuild that war chest. Gingrich helped him raise money this week, and DeMint's PAC, the Senate Conservative Fund, is polling its contributors to determine whether it should fund Akin's race.

"Party leaders in Washington have made it clear that they won't help him regardless of how close the race is," DeMint's PAC told supporters.

McCaskill, meanwhile, has launched a statewide ad campaign highlighting Akin's comments about rape.

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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