TAMPA, Fla. — In a week that saw Karl Rove joke about murdering Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri, Akin’s campaign remained on death watch among Republicans, who continue to hope that Akin will drop out.
But Akin's refusal to bend has put both national conservatives and some Missouri Republicans in a bind: Working furiously behind the scenes to remove Akin, while striving publicly for some semblance of calm and order. That contrast was nowhere more visible than in the person of Phyllis Schlafly, the veteran conservative warrior and founder of the Eagle Forum, who has publicly voiced her support for Akin even as other Republicans have called for him to drop out and who called for Rove to resign as head of American Crossroads after his jab at the embattled candidate
In private, BuzzFeed has learned, Schlafly has assumed a different tone. A week before the Republican National Convention, at the private Council for National Policy conference in Florida, Schlafly approached Akin in front of a group of people and asked that he reconsider staying in the race, two sources confirmed. (Schlafly didn't respond immediately to a request for comment.)
Schlafly’s appeal is part of a continued tack by Republicans, both nationally and at the state level, to gently nudge Akin out of the Senate race, even after initial appeals by party leaders failed. It matches a quiet but forceful scramble behind the scenes, where Missouri figures are preparing for his possible withdrawal, with figures including Ann Wagner, the Republican candidate for Akin’s House seat, actively considering whether to enter the race, should the opportunity arise.
Last week, at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Wagner’s husband, Ray, approached some top Republicans for advice on whether his wife should consider switching races.
“I think they’re very serious, but very cautious,” said one Missouri operative with knowledge of the conversations. “If they can leverage their current position into a Senate seat rather than a House seat, would they do it? Yes.”
A source close to Wagner’s campaign responded, “Our campaign did not go down to Tampa. Ray was down there, but that wasn’t in a campaign capacity, and he doesn’t speak for the campaign.”
If Akin doesn’t listen to Republicans, as many expect he will not, the party hopes that perhaps empty campaign coffers will send their message for them. But Akin’s funds haven’t dried up just yet.
"The campaign has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars online since the incident,” said an Akin aide, who requested anonymity because the fundraising numbers have not yet been released. “There's enough gas in the tank to wage a campaign."
Furthermore, the aide noted, the campaign recently hired Rick Tyler, a veteran Republican staffer who has worked for Newt Gingrich.
"People don't usually run to sinking ships who have credibility or are good at what they do,” the aide said.