Todd Akin emerged victorious Tuesday from the highly competitive Republican Senate primary in Missouri, easily defeating his top competitors wealthy businessman John Brunner and former state treasurer Sarah Steelman.
Akin, who locked up support from conservatives such as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Rep. Michele Bachmann received 36 percent of the vote to 29.8 percent for Steelman and 29.2 percent for Akin with 80 percent of precincts reporting. Three additional candidates split the remainder of the vote.
Much of the race's attention was focused on outsiders Brunner, who was able to put $6.9 million in personal funds into his campaign, and Steelman, a former elected official who earned star tea party support from Sarah Palin and painted herself as a Washington outsider.
The Missouri U.S. Senate primary was absent the clear establishment vs. tea party conservative narrative that has been present in many recent high-profile Republican primaries such as Ted Cruz' Senate victory in Texas. All three of the top candidates in Missouri boasted conservative support, tea party backing as well as establishment endorsements.
Akin ran a markedly less negative campaign than his challengers, according to messaging promoted in paid advertising. He focused on marketing himself as the only "proven conservative" in the race, and highlighted his fiscally conservative record in Congress.
"Todd Akin cosponsored the balanced budget amendment and was named a taxpayer hero for opposing wasteful spending," Huckabee said in a television commercial for Akin. "Only Todd Akin voted against government bailouts, against wasteful stimulus spending and against budget-busting Obamacare."
Akin now heads into a general election race against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, who has been marked as a top takeover target by Republicans.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee offered a preview Tuesday night of their attack lines against Akin, labeling him a tea party extremist in Executive Director Guy Cecil's post-results press release:
Tonight's results provide Missourians with a crystal clear choice between Todd Akin's Tea Party policies and Claire McCaskill, a moderate and independent leader who fights for middle class Missourians. Akin is a champion for the special interests, who would push a Tea Party agenda that cuts Medicare benefits, privatizes Social Security and eliminates federally subsidized college loans that help Missouri families send their kids to college. Akin even said he didn't like Social Security and compared student loans to a 'stage three cancer.'
The state of Missouri remains competitive territory but has trended more conservative in recent years. Obama lost Missouri in 2008 by less than 4,000 votes, but this cycle, instead of targeting Missouri as a swing state, both parties have made clear they regard Missouri as Mitt Romney's to lose.
The state's conservative trend is working against McCaskill, who trailed each of the three top Republican candidates in a Mason-Dixon poll taken in late July.