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Republican leaders have universally condemned Todd Akin, but the conservative ground troops aren't so unified. The backlash to the Akin backlash has two arguments: that he's apologized and must be forgiven, and that his fake science wasn't so bad.

Akin got in trouble for saying in a "legitimate rape" the woman's body rejects rapist sperm so she won't get pregnant. Mike Huckabee emailed a furious defense of Akin Thursday, saying the Republican Party had betrayed a man who "owned his mistake." He warned that a "quiet army" would not appreciate seeing one of their own fed "to the liberal wolves." Other evangelical leaders agreed. The threatening tone was picked up by other conservatives Friday. At World Net Daily, Diana West says that Akin "recanted" his "perplexingly ignorant" views, so the Republican Party should quit "ostracizing" him, or else. "Prediction: If the GOP establishment doesn’t follow Republican Rep. Todd Akin’s example with a big, fat apology – to Akin – the whole party goes down in flames come November," West writes, next to a stock image of fire. (Amusingly, the Google ad that pops up above the article is "Join Claire McCaskill." McCaskill bought promoted tweets on the Twitter hashtag #legitimaterape, too.)

At Hoosier Access, Scott Tibbs says, "Let's not go overboard" on the Akin controversy. Tibbs wanted Akin to step down, but "some of the hysterical freaking out about Akin’s comments (for which he apologized, by the way) has gotten silly." Tibbs continues, "If he does not drop out by the deadline in September, he will be the Republican candidate in November, and Republicans should support him." The idea of a third-party candidacy—floated by Sarah Palin on Fox News this week—would certainly hand McCaskill the seat. "Republican groups and the party establishment yanked support from Akin in an effort to convince him to drop out, but if he does not drop out some of that support should be restored," he says.

Akin's strategist thinks Republicans will heed this advice. Rex Elass, of the Ohio-based firm that cut Akin's apology ad, told The Wall Street Journal's Naftali Bendavid that GOP money will flow to Akin eventually. "Last I checked in politics, when there is a successful band, no one is unwilling to get in front of it and say they were leading it all the way," Mr. Elsass said. "Nothing cures broken relationships like victory." Elass said top-level Republicans didn't want Mitt Romney to talk about social conservatism. A Missouri Republican "insider" seemed to confirm this view when he or she anonymously told the Columbia Tribune's Rudi Keller, "I, personally, and a lot of people like me, want to punish Todd Akin... This is about getting you freaking people out of our party."

On another level is the defense of Akin's fake science. Connie Mackey, head of the Family Research Council's political action committee, told NPR Friday that doctors had defended Akin's idea that rape can't cause pregnancy. (Update: For clarification, Mackey said she'd gotten calls from doctors saying that, but wanted to focus on backing Akin for his pro-life voting record.) The National Review's Mona Charen said Thursday that while Akin's science is fake, you can totally see how it's believable. "Is it such an outlandish idea? I looked it up, and it appears that there is no evidence that pregnancies are less likely in cases of rape, but it didn’t seem out of the realm of possibility to me," Charen writes. She points out that doctors told her to "relax" when she had infertility problems. Also, the body does weird things. "The breast milk of mothers who give birth to preemies is chemically different from the milk produced for full-term infants," for example. And testosterone levels spike when men win sports. So... Akin isn't totally dumb. And the lesser of two evils. "Akin is guilty of having his facts wrong. Many of his critics are guilty of worse."

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