Akin’s first defensive move after people tried to get him to quit was to frame this as a “conservatives vs. liberal elite media” fight. Since his main “liberal media” tormentor was Sean Hannity, that didn’t work. So then he tried to make it a “grassroots conservatives vs. party bosses” thing. That didn’t work either once the Tea Party Express called on him to quit. Now here comes the “social conservatives vs. RINO moderates” pitch. From the man who endorsed David Dewhurst in Texas…
The Party’s leaders have for reasons that aren’t rational, left him behind on the political battlefield, wounded and bleeding, a casualty of his self-inflicted, but not intentional wound. In a Party that supposedly stands for life, it was tragic to see the carefully orchestrated and systematic attack on a fellow Republican. Not for a moral failure or corruption or a criminal act, but for a misstatement which he contritely and utterly repudiated. I was shocked by GOP leaders and elected officials who rushed so quickly to end the political life of a candidate over a mistaken comment in an interview. This was a serious mistake, but it was blown out of proportion not by the left, but by Akin’s own Republican Party. Is this what the party really thinks of principled pro-life advocates? Do we forgive and forget the verbal gaffes of Republicans who are “conveniently pro-life” for political advantage, but crucify one who truly believes that every life is sacred?
Who ordered this “Code Red” on Akin? There were talking point memos sent from the National Republican Senatorial Committee suggesting language to urge Akin to drop out. Political consultants were ordered to stay away from Akin or lose future business with GOP committees. Operatives were recruited to set up a network of pastors to call Akin to urge him to get out. Money has changed hands to push him off the plank. It is disgraceful. From the spotlights of political offices and media perches, it may appear that the demand for Akin’s head is universal in the party. I assure you it is not. There is a vast, but mostly quiet army of people who have an innate sense of fairness and don’t like to see a fellow political pilgrim bullied. If Todd Akin loses the Senate seat, I will not blame Todd Akin. He made his mistake, but was man enough to admit it and apologize. I’m waiting for the apology from whoever the genius was on the high pedestals of our party who thought it wise to not only shoot our wounded, but run over him with tanks and trucks and then feed his body to the liberal wolves. It wasn’t just Todd Akin that was treated with contempt by the thinly veiled attack on Todd Akin. It was all the people who have faithfully knocked doors, made calls, and made sacrificial contributions to elect Republicans because we thought we were welcome in the party. Todd Akin owned his mistake. Who will step up and admit the effort being made to discredit Akin and apologize for the sleazy way it’s been handled?
There’s more at the link. The timing is no coincidence, I take it: Akin met with a group of social conservative leaders and activists in Tampa last night, presumably to plan some sort of coordinated pushback against the calls for him to get out. According to Tony Perkins, the goal was “to talk to him and encourage him in the stand he’s been taking.” Makes sense that Huckabee, who has huge name recognition and a megaphone at Fox News, would take the lead on it. But he’s not alone:
“Following the pounding of Todd Akin by the GOP kings and lieutenants in the last 36 hours, I’ve come to the conclusion that the real issue is the soul of America,” wrote David Lane, an evangelical activist who’s influential in the Republican Party, in an e-mail to fellow activists Thursday morning.
“The swift knee-jerk reaction to throw Akin, a strong conservative pro-life, pro-family born again Christian under the bus by some in the Republican Party is shining the light on their actual agenda,” Lane continued.
“We haven’t seen anything this vicious since some of the same operatives did this to (Sarah) Palin.”
Perkins also sent out a blast e-mail last night noting that the GOP has stood by moderates in the past and therefore “Singling out Todd suggests a double standard, designed to drive out social conservatives.” Why are heavy hitters like him and Huckabee ready to fight and die on Magic Uterus Hill when there’s overwhelming bipartisan disgust at Akin for what he said? Because, I think, of the phenomenon that Phil Klein identified in his piece at the Examiner this morning. This is the first time since the rise of the tea party that virtually the entire right, including the Tea Party Express, has united against a Republican candidate for saying something fringe-y enough to imperil his chances of winning. An exasperated Jim Geraghty points to Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle, and Carl Paladino and writes, “These candidates and their teams always insist that they know better. They always insist that they have some sort of secret understanding of the race, some sort of secret game plan or strategy that will completely change the circumstances. And they always, always, always lose.” (Not surprisingly, Sharron Angle’s campaign manager is fully supportive of Akin staying in.) Klein’s point is that a lot of conservatives have come to feel the same exasperation about winnable seats, especially in an election cycle that represents the last chance to repeal ObamaCare before the program starts.
What makes Huck et al. nervous about that, I think, is that if Akin drops out and his replacement wins the seat, Republicans may conclude that good things can happen for the party if it’s unforgiving of controversial pronouncements by socially conservative candidates. Akin’s not the only man in America with funny ideas about women’s alleged biological rape defenses, after all. Which beliefs are too controversial for a candidate to hold, and will the standard for that shift over time? None of this is meant as a defense of Akin, mind you — I think he should go pronto for his crankery, the upshot of which was to suggest that it’s not really rape if a woman gets pregnant — but this is why I think you’re seeing a circling of the wagons from social conservatives. It’s not so much about Akin as the fact that they’d rather lose this seat and keep the Overton window where it is for future GOP candidates than win by letting it shift, because no one knows exactly where it might shift to.
You’ll be pleased to know, incidentally, that Claire McCaskill thinks that Rasmussen poll showing her up 10 points is awfully fishy and that Akin has a much better chance of beating her than anyone thinks. I guess he’d better stay in the race then, huh? Exit question: Huck et al. keep noting that Akin has apologized repeatedly and therefore should be forgiven. Has he apologized for the actual nuts and bolts of what he said, though? When he talked to Huckabeethe other day, he made it sound like his mistake was simply using the word “legitimate” in the context of rape. (“I said one word in one sentence on one day, and everything changed.”) But his more substantive mistake was passing along quack science about the likelihood of pregnancy during violent sexual assault. Has he apologized for that too? I’m asking earnestly; I might have missed it.
Update: A few people on Twitter have wondered whether the RNC should rescind Huckabee’s invitation to speak at the convention for this. You think? You think Mitt Romney, whose abortion flip-flopping has already made him untrustworthy to social cons, is going to restart a war with Huck 10 weeks out from election day — when all Huck’s really doing is defending the GOP nominee for Senate in Missouri? C’mon.