Republican Rep. Todd Akin's decision to stay in the U.S. Senate race in Missouri is likely to leave him with support from the state's evangelical community, but not much more, says a political scientist at the University of Missouri, St. Louis.
Akin, who is running against incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill, lost the backing and financial support of his Republican Party and faced calls to withdraw from the race after remarks about what he termed "legitimate rape."
"He's going to have to get votes from more moderate, middle-of-the-road Republicans, and the way he's going to have to do that is to change the conversation to the economy," Dave Robertson, a political science professor at the university, tells NPR.
That's exactly the debate former Sen. John Danforth, R-Mo., says the election should be about.
But Danforth, who was among those who urged Akin to withdraw, says the congressman won't be able to raise enough money to run a competitive campaign.
"I think that the Democrats, smelling blood, will pour more money into our state, including into the presidential campaign, and this is something that Sen. McCaskill will keep alive right until Election Day," he says. "This is not going to fade away so, no, I think he's got no chance of winning."
Akin, who had limited his appearances this week to conservative media outlets like Mike Huckabee's radio show, went mainstream Wednesday. Hours after a deadline passed that would have allowed him an easy way to get off Missouri's November ballot, he appeared on ABC and NBC's morning shows.
On NBC's Today show, he confirmed reports that Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Republican Mitt Romney's running mate, was among those who urged him to drop out of the race.
"He advised me that it would be good for me to step down," Akin said. "I told him that I was going to be looking at this very seriously, trying to weigh all of the different points on this and that I would make the decision, 'cause it's not about me. It's about trying to do the right thing and standing on principle."
While the calculus has become much harder for Akin, things are looking up for McCaskill. She was the target of millions of dollars in campaign ads from Republicans and outside groups — ads no longer running.
Robertson says the senator can now expect donations to flow into her campaign.
"McCaskill is going to be able to get campaign contributions from around the country," he says. "The other side of this is it nationalizes the race on the left side of the spectrum. An awful lot of people who are pro-choice now are going to want to chip in to defeat Akin."
Democrats say they have no plans at the moment to change their strategy in Missouri. Akin's remarks that the female body can prevent pregnancy caused by "legitimate rape" feed into the narrative that Democrats and McCaskill had already been sketching in their TV ads — that Akin's an extremist.
If Akin obtains a court order, he still has until Sept. 25 to withdraw from the race. And while he hasn't issued a Sherman-esque statement flatly ruling out the possibility, at this moment, he seems little inclined to change his mind.
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