Rep. Todd Akin’s decision today to stay in the race for Senate from Missouri pits him against a bipartisan Establishment, in his state and Washington, in the right and the center, that is straining to push him out.
That’s a comfortable position for a conservative Republican who was never one of the club on Capitol Hill, and whose political infrastructure sits safely outside even the watermark of the online storm tides.
“The institutions have never been with Todd,” one source close to the candidate told BuzzFeed. They “had for a few weeks,” since he won the nomination, but “now [it’s] back to the good old days.”
The campaign’s thinking: “We’re counting on the forgiveness of Missourians…not answering to vacuous D.C. power players,” the person said.
Akin’s new ad makes clear the message of his campaign, in the words of this ally: “He’s a good man…who said an awful thing apologized and deserves a chance to defend his honor and integrity before the power structure just decides to toss him aside.”
If this rhetoric is familiar, it’s the rhetoric of a conservative counter-establishment that is now it’s own establishment, and which is, mostly, also calling on Akin to quit. But he has a few voices of support, including the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, who recently captured the same dynamic.
And Akin has at his back people who are used to weathering the Establishment’s storms. His consulting firm is the Strategy Group, a Columbus, Ohio-based firm whose low profile belies its size and reach, as well as its experience at the heart of recent squalls. Its founder Rex Elsass and president Nick Everhart have their hands in conservative House races across the country, and worked on both Michele Bachmann’s and Newt Gingrich’s campaign for president’s.
“When George Allen made some comments a few years ago, you didn’t see the Senatorial committee pulling its support from him. You didn’t see people abandoning him,” he said.
The implicit difference: Akin is an outsider. Many Republicans would now go further, and say he’s a pariah. But in American politics, and Republican politics, right now, the outside isn’t the worst place to be.