She cited colonists who “rose up and said, ‘Not in my home, you don’t come and rape my daughters and my … wife. But that is where we are again. There has been a freedom of elections, not tyranny of selections since way back. Why are we going to roll over and let them steamroll us, be it Democrats or Republicans or whomever?” Obama and Mitt Romney “both seem to be embodying” a British monarch, “with all the tactics that they’ve been revealing” toward her husband, Lulli Akin said. “Are they that dissimilar?” she asked. “Are they really dissimilar? They say with their mouths ‘free enterprise’—but, really, how free?”
Asked about comparisons of his plight to revolutionary Americans, Todd Akin called it “a little more grandiose than the way I would say it.” But he seconded the theme, citing “this tremendous sense of uprising I feel among the people I talk to,” that “ ‘We made a decision, and [even if] I didn’t even vote for you … it was a legitimate race.’ ”
Akin’s legislative record includes few significant bills passed and a focus on unsuccessful social-conservative proposals, such as a measure to strip lower courts of jurisdiction over the phrase “one nation under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. He does not seem a man much interested in political compromise—or even in legislating at all. But he doesn’t pretend that he is, and his political struggles now are part of his outsider appeal. He can honestly argue that he sacrificed political benefit for his principles.
Typical congressional campaigns, like many families, will go into debt to cover expensive necessities. The Akin family, and the Akin campaign, strictly avoid debt, a position the candidate would like to apply to the U.S. government. The Akins did not have a mortgage until a few years ago, and they took one out only to boost their credit rating.
This stance contributed to the campaign’s struggle to reach voters in the primary, according to campaign aides and Lulli Akin. The candidate’s main problem now is that he cannot raise enough money, but his refusal to rack up debt worsens that disadvantage. His aides say they are seeking new sources of funding. Tyler predicted last week that “national funding will come back” when polling shows that Akin can win. But, in the meantime, Tyler said, the campaign’s current intake “won’t be enough.”
Akin appears well aware of his challenge. He declined to assure supporters he can compete with McCaskill financially or prevail in November. “I can give them reassurance that I am gonna stay in the race,” he said in an interview. “That, I can give them. What is gonna happen, that is not in my [control]. You know, I am gonna do the best I know how. That is all anybody can do.”
Akin seemed both apologetic about his controversial statement and still stunned by the reaction. “If I’d done some heinous crime or something, then I can understand that I, just on my own, should step down,” he said.
But, he continued, “people made their choice, and I think it would be wrong for me to step down. I really do. I think it’s the wrong thing for me to do. And I don’t do wrong things intentionally. Sometimes I hurt people, but I don’t mean to.”
Tyler said that Akin is committed to winning the race but willing to lose rather than compromise his principles. He is prepared “to be happy returning to being an American citizen,” Tyler said.“His identity is not all wrapped up in this. “There are plenty of politicians,” the aide said, who “if they lose, they wouldn’t know who they were. That’s not Todd Akin.”
Whatever Akin’s fate, his party is working hard to mitigate damage to other Republican candidates, especially Romney. In unifying against Akin, GOP leaders reduced damage to the national brand with women and independents, but concern remains. Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine said that Akin’s continued candidacy “can reinforce, regrettably,” Democrats’ claim of a Republican “war on women.” But worry about Akin is not limited to Washington. In Missouri, all living former GOP senators called for him to step aside. Akin backers claim that Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, who organized that effort, also unsuccessfully pushed in recent weeks for the Missouri Farm Bureau to drop its endorsement of Akin.
Republican state Rep. Sue Allen, a Missouri lawmaker who represents part of Akin’s House district, says she “wouldn’t vote for Claire McCaskill if my life depended on it,” and will vote for Akin if he is on the ballot. But Allen said she was telling constituents that Akin is unelectable. “At some point, he has to realize that whatever the message is, it’s not going to get out there,” Allen said.
Meanwhile, some Republicans fear that the Akin controversy, particularly former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s charge that GOP leaders are ignoring social conservatives in abandoning Akin, risks reducing enthusiasm and, potentially, turnout among a small but possibly consequential slice of conservatives.
Tyler is clamoring for the NRSC to resume aid to Akin, touting that same scenario. He predicted a “revolution in the party” if the GOP fails to capture the Senate or the White House and fallout for Senate GOP leaders if McCaskill wins.
“If we lose, it will be their fault,” Tyler said. For his part, Akin declined to say if Republican leaders will bear the fault if he loses.
Still, in Osborn, farmers were much less interested in talking about abortion and more worried about the long drought that spiked grain prices. In a situation like this, many lawmakers could cite their efforts to enact a disaster-relief bill, which the House passed this summer. Not Akin, who missed the vote and has regularly voted against such relief measures. He has also opposed farm bills because of food-stamp funding and other provisions. He says he “wants to vote” for the farm bill pending in the House, but that his decision will depend on its details.
If Akin wanted to please farmers, he could reverse his position on farm and disaster-aid legislation and assert that he is running to represent millions of new constituents. Many past Senate hopefuls have taken that tactic in adjusting policy positions.
But Akin didn’t do that. He did not mention pending legislation, and he agreed, when asked, that he couldn’t offer drought-stricken farmers much beyond the hope of rain.
It had been a hot, dry week. However, as Akin headed for his car, the wind picked up, and a storm, the remnants of Hurricane Isaac, moved up from Arkansas and drenched Missouri.
This article appears in the Sep. 15, 2012, edition of National Journal.