Todd Akin Gets GOP Backing Again After Refusing to Quit

Akin lost party after "legitimate rape" comment, but refused to leave race.

September 26, 2012, 5:23 PM

Sept. 27, 2012 -- The biggest flip-flop of the 2012 election season may not come from a candidate, but from Republicans who once bashed Todd Akin.

After calling on Akin to withdraw from his Senate race against Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill in Missouri, in the wake of his now-infamous "legitimate rape" comment, the National Republican Senatorial Committee now supports his candidacy and has reopened the door to spending on his behalf.

What's changed? Akin's withdrawal deadline expired at 5 p.m. CDT on Tuesday. He's officially on the ballot, and Republicans are stuck with him as their candidate.

Up until the deadline, D.C. Republicans stood by their decision not to support Akin. "We meant what we said," one GOP strategist told ABC News on Monday, predicting a loss for Akin in the state. "At some point you have to do what's right for the party, and that was doing what's right for the party."

But now that the possibility of replacing him has gone away, he is being embraced again, some sounding as if there had never been any doubt.

"There is no question that for Missourians who believe we need to stop the reckless Washington spending, rein in the role of government in people's lives, and finally focus on growing jobs in this country, that Todd Akin is a far more preferable candidate than liberal Senator Claire McCaskill," the National Republican Senatorial Committee's executive director, Rob Jesmer, said in a prepared statement on Wednesday.

Rick Santorum, Jim DeMint endorse Todd Akin

"As with every Republican Senate candidate, we hope Todd Akin wins in November and we will continue to monitor this race closely in the days ahead," Jesmer said.

Translation: If Akin appears to be competitive, the NRSC will consider spending in Missouri -- something the committee has maintained it would not do.

D.C.-based Republicans had unanimously trashed Akin after his now-infamous rape comment in August. NRSC chairman John Cornyn, along with Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, called on Akin to drop out or at least reconsider his Senate bid. One major election-spending group, American Crossroads, yanked $3.5 million in reserved expenditures hitting McCaskill.

Conservative PAC may back Akin's Senate bid

Akin's campaign has criticized Cornyn and the GOP establishment in its fundraising pitches. His online fundraising page still asks donors to "Chip in now and show the party bosses that you're standing with Todd Akin in his fight to defeat Claire McCaskill in November!"

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"A lot of people are coming on board, and we're very appreciative of them," Akin campaign spokesman Ryan Hite told ABC News.

"They're looking at the race. Apparently they haven't made a decision yet," Hite said of the NRSC's announcement. "They said it pretty good: Anyone who'd looking for a limited government knows Todd Akin is a far better choice."

The NRSC isn't alone in suddenly hopping aboard the Akin train.

Rick Santorum and Sen. Jim DeMint endorsed Akin Wednesday through the Santorum group Patriot Voices.

"If Republicans are to win back the Senate and stop President Obama's liberal agenda, we must defeat Senator Claire McCaskill in Missouri," they said in a joint statement released by the group. "Todd Akin is a principled conservative who is committed to winning and fighting for freedom in the U.S. Senate."

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas also endorsed Akin on Wednesday.

"Of course Gov Perry supports Todd Akin, a conservative Republican, over Claire McCaskill, a Democrat," Catherine Frazier, press secretary for Perry, wrote in an email when asked if Perry would endorse Akin.

Perry has no plans to go to Missouri between now and Election Day. He was in Columbia, Missouri on Monday to attend a fundraising business roundtable for Ed Martin, who is running for attorney general in the state.

Republicans Back Todd Akin After He Refuses to Quit Race

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, once a rival of Perry and Santorum for the GOP presidential nomination, spent Monday campaigning with Akin in the candidate's St. Louis County congressional district, which he has represented for six terms. Gingrich attended a press conference and fundraiser luncheon with Akin. Rick Tyler, a former Gingrich aide who led the pro-Gingrich super PAC Winning Our Future, began working as Akin's spokesman Aug. 30.

On Tuesday, minutes after Akin's withdrawal deadline had passed, the Missouri Republican Party issued a statement of support. "Just like all of our GOP candidates elected in the August primary, the Missouri Republican Party stands behind Congressman Todd Akin in his race for United State Senate," state party chairman David Cole said. The state party had not called on Akin to withdraw but had distanced itself from the candidate, according to Akin's campaign.

DeMint's PAC, the Senate Conservatives Fund, endorsed Akin Thursday morning after its supporters pledged $290,000 to help him. The group Freedom's Defense Fund reportedly will spend $250,000 on TV, radio, and Internet ads to boost Akin.

Other groups are standing by their decision not to involve themselves in Missouri.

"We have absolutely no plans to get involved in this race," Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller told ABC News. FreedomWorks did not respond to an email inquiry.

"You kind of know where we are on Missouri," American Crossroads spokesman Nate Hodson said. "We don't discuss any strategy moving forward."

Arlette Saenz contributed to this report.

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