Lost amid the exploding controversy over Missouri Republican Rep. Todd Akin's claims about "legitimate rape" is one of the reasons that Akin is the Republican Senate standard-bearer in the first place (at least for the moment).
Sen. Claire McCaskill and the Democrats wanted him as her opponent.
In the weeks before the August 7 primary, McCaskill and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee aired ads that ostensibly attacked Akin, but actually boosted his candidacy. The ads called said him a "true conservative" and questioned if he was "too conservative," hardly a negative in a GOP primary. One radio ad ended by noting that Akin "has been endorsed by the most conservative leaders in our country: Michele Bachmann and Mike Huckabee."
McCaskill did air ads against all the Republicans in the race, but only the Akin ones included such glowing testimonials. With a wink and a nod, Democrats placed their bets that the conservative congressman would be her weakest foe in the fall, even if they're never publicly acknowledged it.
"The suggestion that McCaskill would prefer to run against Akin would be a very unwise choice on her part," Akin spokesman Ryan Hite told the Washington Post
, shortly before the primary.
But so far, the Democratic meddling in the GOP primary is looking like a very smart investment. "Of the three [GOP primary] candidates, at least so far, he has shown himself to be out of the mainstream at least on a whole host of issues," Guy Cecil, executive director of the DSCC, said in an interview Wednesday.
The only problem facing McCaskill and the Democrats now is that Akin may have made his biggest stumble early enough for the GOP establishment to twist his arm right out of the race. He can still withdraw before 5 p.m. on Tuesday
John Cornyn of Texas, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, essentially gave Akin a 24-hour ultimatum to get out of the race. "Over the next twenty-four hours, Congressman Akin should carefully consider what is best for him, his family, the Republican Party, and the values that he cares about," he said.
Cornyn called Akin's comments "wrong, offensive, and indefensible."
Adding to the pressure, Crossroads GPS, the Karl Rove-backed group that has already invested millions to unseat McCaskill, has also pulled up stakes in the state
following Akin's comments.
Meanwhile, John Brunner, the businessman that finished second behind Akin in the primary, has reportedly been making calls
about how he could get back into the race.
McCaskill, as it turns out, may not get the opponent she wanted after all.