Akin 'Looking Forward to Working With' Romney and Ryan
BETHANY, Mo. -- Republicans may not have wanted Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., in Tampa this week, but as Mitt Romney prepared to accept the presidential nomination in Tampa, 1,200 miles away, Akin made it clear he wants to stick with the GOP -- and his embattled Senate candidacy.
Akin resumed campaigning at the Northwest Missouri State Fair, ending two weeks without public events following his statement that "legitimate rape" rarely causes pregnancy. Riding in a white pickup truck with a big blue campaign sign, Akin participated in a parade in this rural county seat near the Iowa border Thursday.
In an interview afterwards at the fairgrounds, Akin said Romney and other Republican leaders had "a little bit overreacted" in their calls for him to drop out of the race, and he emphasized that he nevertheless strongly backs Romney and his vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
"I totally support the Ryan, Romney ticket," Akin said. "I'm completely on board. I think they're great. I've worked with Paul Ryan. He is excellent. Best guy on the budget of anyone in the Congress that I know of. And I think they're fantastic and I am looking forward to working with them."
Akin has previously left the door open to quitting the race against Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., if polls show he cannot win. But Thursday he said he is "in the race until November, and we're in the race to win."
"I also sense the mood is changing a little bit too," Akin added. Voters have moved from "shock" and "rushing to judgment" when his remark was first highlighted "to a little more deliberation," he asserted. Voters are saying, "Well, wait a minute, let's think about this a little bit," he said.
Akin said he hopes that perceived shift helps him highlight a record on gun rights, agriculture, health care, taxes and abortion that is "more in contact with the state of Missouri" than McCaskill's record.
The congressman retains a tight-knit campaign of loyalists who view the campaign as a cause. Akin's son is his campaign manager. Akin's wife greeted a reporter at the campaign's sparse campaign headquarters outside St. Louis Tuesday.
Aides call that benefit, but GOP critics call at it an insular bubble, shielding him from reality. National Republican leaders have had almost no direct contact with Akin since he chose to remain in the race.
But the candidate said he is receiving enthusiastic encouragement from grassroots conservative supporters who he acknowledged grew more his campaign following the controversy over his remarks.
"The firestorm was a little bit like a tornado," Akin said. "It spins everything around and shakes it up and it leaves things different. And in its wake we felt a tremendous sense of grassroots support and kind of a chill from the party leadership, so it's kind of a 'both and' situation, very unique. I haven't been in the middle of something like that before."
Local GOP campaign consultants say Akin's fundraising since his statement and his spending on apology ads, along with National Republican Senatorial Committee and outside groups pledging to cut off financial support for his campaign, leave him without the funds he needs to compete with McCaskill through November.
Akin partly sidestepped questions about his campaign finances, noting he was also outspent in the fractious, three-way GOP primary earlier this month. "In terms of the $5 and $10 and $15 contributions we've done very well, and I don't see any particular reason why that would stop," he said. Akin said that his donors previously "tended to be more in-state" before the controversy, "where now it's more from out-of-state as well."
Akin also appears to be taking a more cautious approach in his dealings with the press. "We're also getting some lessons that dealing with media a little different as well," Akin said. "It's just a much more sensitive environment and any slip-up comes at a high cost."
Asked about the personal impact of the controversy, Akin said he is less bothered by the sudden political notoriety, which he called part of politics, than death and rape threats, including at least one under FBI investigation. "They get your attention," he said.
While regularly criticizing Akin on policy grounds this week, McCaskill has not highlighted his remark on abortion. Clearly sharing Akin's desire that his campaign continue, McCaskill has used similar language to Akin in warning against "party bosses" outside Missouri dictating the GOP Senate nominee.
Akin laughed off that piece of mutual interest. "I am afraid the honeymoon may be short lived," he said.
Akin has several campaign events outside Kansas City Friday, including a media availability in the evening.