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Despite Disavowal, GOP Leadership May End Up Backing Akin

Leadership ultimately embraced Christine O'Donnell's quixotic campaign in 2010 despite tough talk about abandoning Delaware to Democrats.

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Senate Republicans seemed to make clear Tuesday that they are cutting Rep. Todd Akin off from party support for a bizarre comment about rape and pregnancy —but if history is any indicator that resolve may not be long lived.

The firestorm that has engulfed Akin after his “legitimate rape” comments this weekend has prompted virtually every national Republican to not only denounce the conservative Missouri Republican, but to demand he abandon his campaign against Sen. Claire McCaskill.

The National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, which helps recruit and fund senate candidates for the GOP, went so far as to bluntly warn Akin he would be on his own financially and that they would not make good on plans to advertise on his behalf.

Still, if he’s able to weather the current storm and stay within striking distance of McCaskill, Democratic and Republican operatives alike have questioned how long that resolve would last.

And while Republicans continue to insist they won’t back track, history seems to suggest they haven’t always stood firm against intransigent candidates.

In fact, you don’t have to look much further than the 2010 election cycle.

Back then, the National Republican Senatorial Committee made it clear before the primary in Delaware that if dark horse Tea Party candidate Christine O'Donnell beat establishment-backed former Rep. Mike Castle, NRSC Chairman John Cornyn would turn off the national spigot.

But in what Politico called a “remarkable reversal” Cornyn embraced O’Donnell and even cut her a $42,000 check immediately after her upset victory.

Ultimately, Republicans need the seat. And for Akin, that's reason to hope.

There are, however, significant differences between the two situations. While leadership was very unhappy with O’Donnell’s primary win in 2010, the reality of the Tea Party tidal wave that swept the country that year made opposing her an uphill battle.

In fact, despite her quirky nature and lack of national support, O’Donnell had massive grassroots support coming into the primary, a fact that Cornyn and other leaders who ended up embracing her were responding to.

Akin is, at least for now, in the exact opposite position – grassroots leaders and Tea Party groups have also started coming out demanding he step down, and while conservative pundits originally rallied around him they have quickly turned.

And the NRSC made clear Tuesday that it has no plans of reversing course and backing Akin financially.

“The message to Congressman Akin and his remaining advisors should not be more clear – the NRSC will not be spending any resources if he chooses to move forward with this race. We hope he will do the right thing and step aside.” said Brian Walsh, the NRSC's Communications Director.

John Stanton is a senior national correspondent for BuzzFeed News. In 2014, Stanton was a recipient of the National Press Foundation’s 2014 Dirksen Award for distinguished reporting of Congress.

Contact John Stanton at

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