Can Todd Akin hang onto his Republican nomination for the US Senate after a disastrous interview over the weekend, in which he questioned the legitimacy of rape claims from women who got impregnated by their assaulters? He’s giving it a try, with a new ad out this morning called “Forgiveness,” which ends the explanations and instead offers a mea maxima culpa while promising to get tough on rapists (via Politico):
“Rape is an evil act. I used the wrong words in the wrong way and for that I apologize. As the father of two daughters, I want tough justice for predators. I have a compassionate heart for the victims of sexual assault. I pray for them,” Akin says. “The fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy. The truth is, rape has many victims.”
Akin continues: “The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold. I ask for your forgiveness.”
The spot was produced by the Strategy Group for Media, which guided Akin to an upset victory in a multi-candidate Republican primary. For Akin to move ahead, he’ll have to apologize profusely (as in this ad) and move on from his problematic comments, return the focus of his campaign to McCaskill and her record in Congress, and win back support from the national Republicans who have condemned him when it becomes clear that he’s going to remain the party’s nominee for Senate. He’ll have to run an insurgent race and bet either that the GOP establishment eventually comes back on board — or that he won’t need them in the general election any more than he needed them in the primary.
The ad itself seems like a message that Akin still has no intention of dropping out before today’s 5 PM deadline in Missouri. It’s unclear whether Akin had the ad buys to put this on TV in the state today at all, or if that inventory is available otherwise. It would have to go into rotation for a while before anyone could calculate the impact of Akin’s apology, and whether voters believe it to be sincere. One thing seems sure: his mortification is sincere.
PPP polled the state in the wake of Akin’s comments, and found that … nothing much really changed:
Missouri voters strongly disagree with the comments Todd Akin made about abortion over the weekend, but it hasn’t moved the numbers a whole lot in the Senate race. Akin leads Claire McCaskill by a single point, 44-43. That’s basically identical to our last poll of the contest in late May, which found Akin ahead by a 45-44 spread.
It’s not that Missouri voters are ok with or supportive of Akin’s comments. 75% of voters, including even 64% of Republicans, say they were inappropriate to only 9% who consider them to have been appropriate. 79% of voters say they disagree with what Akin said, including 65% who express ‘strong’ disagreement with him. 51% of GOP voters say they strongly disagree with him.
All of that is taking a toll on Akin’s image. Only 24% of voters have a favorable opinion of him to 58% with a negative one. He’s pretty universally disliked by Democrats (3/85) and independents (21/61) and even with Republicans (43/34) he’s on only narrowly positive ground.
There’s another problem with this poll for Akin, one we don’t usually see from PPP — they significantly oversampled Republicans. The D/R/I on this survey is R+9 at 30/39/32, but even the GOP-sweep 2010 election had exit polls for Missouri showing an R+3 advantage, 34/37/28. I’m not sure I’d trust that one-point margin lead in this poll.
In this instance, I’d be more concerned about the deeply negative rating Akin gets at the moment and the angry reaction from voters to his comments, which also shows up in a Survey USA poll. A solid majority believe that Akin didn’t misspeak in his interview but said what he truly believes (55/32), which makes it more difficult to sell an apology after the fact. Almost the same percentage (54/34) want Akin to withdraw; that’s a minority opinion among Republicans, although significant at 33/52, but 58% of independents want Akin out of the race, and majorities of both men and women agree.
While this ad strongly suggests that Akin doesn’t have an exit strategy in mind, the day is still long. I would be slightly surprised if Akin remained in the race by 5 pm CT today.