Senator McCaskill I hear is one of his biggest supporter to remain in the race against her.
.By DOUGLAS BELKIN
ST. LOUIS—After enduring a 48-hour shellacking by local and national Republican politicians, who asked him to quit his bid for the U.S. Senate, Rep. Todd Akin fanned the flames of a grass-roots backlash from his evangelical base Wednesday in hopes that he could change the narrative of his troubled campaign.
Mr. Akin, attacking "the party bosses" who are calling for him to pull out and condemning the "liberal media" for twisting his words, went on national television Wednesday morning and defiantly vowed to stay in the race. At the same time, his surrogates in Missouri began to spin scenarios in which he could beat incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in November.
"This has resulted in faster unification of the grass roots than we would have otherwise seen," said Kerry Messer, president of Missouri Family Network, which describes itself as a pro-family lobbying organization. "This is about the mainstream media jumping on a conservative who said something wrong, and distorting that. People can see for themselves what he said that is making them angry, and it's bringing them together."
Rep. Todd Akin, the embattled Missouri GOP Senate candidate, reiterated his intent to stay in the race Tuesday, even as Republicans continued to raise the pressure on him to step aside. Naftali Bendavid has details on The News Hub. Photo: AP.
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The comment drew condemnation from President Barack Obama and spurred presumptive presidential GOP nominee Mitt Romney, his running mate, Paul Ryan, and a host of Republican governors to ask Mr. Akin to withdraw his candidacy. Karl Rove's American Crossroads super PAC and other heavyweights withdrew plans to run ads on his behalf.
Instead of stepping aside, Mr. Akin has apologized for his "one wrong word" and used the castigation from the political establishment as fuel to fire up antiabortion Christian conservatives who have carried him to victory across his career.
"For him to win, he has to make this a national crusade," said Dave Robertson, professor of political science at University of Missouri-St. Louis. "He has to bridge this period with small donations from around the country until the super PACs think he can win again and come back."
Mr. Akin appears to be doing his best to tap the national base of antiabortion activists. On his website, a banner reads: "I am pro life and I stand with Todd Akin." In another corner, the site asks supporters to "chip in if you believe party bosses shouldn't trump the votes of the people of Missouri."
Outsiders telling Mr. Akin to step down, seeming to dictate whom Missourians can and can't vote for, is beginning to grate on some people here.
At the Jefferson County Republican Central Committee meeting Tuesday, many attendees said they would have preferred Mr. Romney to have remained quiet on the issue until it is resolved.
"We're called the Show Me State for a very good reason," said Janet Engelbach, committee president. "You'll have to show the people of Missouri a really good reason for making Todd Akin step aside."
Mr. Akin won Jefferson County, one of the most populous in the state, in the recent Senate primary. The local GOP committee members overwhelmingly stood by him Tuesday, said Ms. Engelbach—not necessarily because they agree with what he said, she explained, but because "he won the primary fair and square."
Mr. Akin, 65 years old, is a canny politician who knows well the contours of his constituency and has benefited from a few well-timed strokes of luck across his career. Despite standing to the right of the majority of his constituents in suburban St. Louis, he has been elected to six terms in the U.S. House.
His only close race was his first primary in 2000, when his competitors split the moderate vote and allowed him to squeak through to victory. "My base will show up in earthquakes," he said at the time. He went on to an easy win in the general election in a district that leans Republican and hasn't had a close call since.
He bet on that base again this month when he bested a trio of conservative Republicans in a hard-fought primary in which he was outspent. Establishment Republicans argued he was too far to the right to win a statewide vote. Mr. Akin's television ads blended evangelical catchphrases and religious themes aimed at Christian conservatives.
Aiding him on the ticket was a referendum defending public prayer that got more votes than all of the senatorial candidates combined, Mr. Robertson said.
Now, Mr. Akin needs those supporters to sustain him again as he struggles to turn the narrative from whether he will quit to how he can defeat Ms. McCaskill. His surrogates are doing their best to make that happen.
"He absolutely can still beat her," said John Putnam, the Missouri coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots and a supporter. "His campaign website crashed because so many people are coming on board to support him. When it comes down to a choice of a Republican or McCaskill, the