Huckabee, Akin's Biggest Backer, Has Primetime RNC Speaking Slot

The former presidential candidate throws his weight behind the embattled Senate hopeful -- potentially setting up an awkward scene at the RNC.

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Everyone in the Republican Party wants Todd Akin to drop out of the Missouri Senate race. Everyone, that is, except for Mike Huckabee, a fellow staunch pro-life evangelical from the Ozark region that extends from Missouri to Alabama. Akin chose to make his initial defense of widely deplored comments claiming that in instances of "legitimate rape" women's bodies would "shut down" and prevent pregnancy on Huckabee's radio show on Monday. And after several days in which Huckabee remained generally neutral but a parade of Republicans blasted Akin and demanded he bow out, the former Arkansas governor came out Thursday afternoon with a scorching rejoinder, delivered in an email to supporters. It's worth reading the whole philippic, but here's how he closes:

The idea that our Party would continue to play games behind the scenes and feed the Democrats make-believe narrative of the GOP's fictional war on women is equally ridiculous. Now is the time to focus on electing a conservative Senate Majority. And if the NRSC and RNC and the money-rich PACS won't help Todd Akin get us to the majority, then we'll do it without them. And his seat will not have been sold to the highest bidder, but obtained by the highest principles.

His jab at the RNC is especially pointed. That's because Huckabee is scheduled for a primetime speaking slot at the Republican National Convention, with a 7 p.m. address on Monday in Tampa. And he's one of the most well-liked figures in the GOP, a friendly, affable guy with a wide reach (through radio and TV) and almost unparalleled cachet among Christian conservatives, meaning he's nearly untouchable.

It's intriguing to imagine what might happen next. Akin seems determined to stay in the race against Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, despite intense pressure to leave. The backing of even a single Republican of Huckabee's stature will no doubt strengthen his resolve. But there's no sign of the rest of the party backing off the demand that Akin leave, and it's hard to imagine Huckabee is going to get less angry at his compatriots if the Akin-bashing continues. So do Republicans face the specter of Huckabee railing against the party and in favor of the embattled Missourian, creating an enormous distraction from the GOP's biggest Romney-Ryan unit rally of the year?

Either way, it's bad news for Republicans who had hoped the Akin issue would go away quickly and smoothly.

Hat tip: Ben Domenech

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David A. Graham is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covers political and global news. He previously reported for Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and The National.

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