Todd Akin must be nuts to still be in the Missouri Senate race after all those Republicans said mean things about him, right? He must be doing this out of spite, or the belief that God wants him to be senator? Actually, no. Though Akin appears to be easily fooled by fake science, he is acting perfectly rationally. What would he gain by dropping out?
Akin has stayed in the race despite the condemnation of nearly very Republican official. Some writers have suggested this is due to irrational thinking -- Akin's ego is too big, he's "crazy," "delusional," "stubborn," "dumb," victim of a possible "nervous breakdown." All those insults come from conservatives, but Akin is trying to reframe it as attacks from the dreaded MSM. "I apologized but the liberal media is trying to make me drop out," Akin tweeted. It's an interesting way to turn a six-term congressman into an outsider. It's clever enough that you might suspect Akin isn't so crazy after all.
You have to wonder if the idea that he's crazy comes from the fact that he's an evangelical. ("Akin believes this race is 'providential' and even if Akin was ready to get out, his wife would never let him quit," NBC reported.) Those people are exotic and motivated by forces the rest of us sinners can't understand. And yet history shows even leading evangelicals are not above earthly considerations.
What are Akin's earthly considerations? His career and his cause. If he quits, he has nothing. Contrary to some reports, Akin can't go back to the House if he loses to McCaskill. He gave up his seat in Missouri's second congressional district to run for Senate. The best explanation of Akin's rationale for staying in the race have come from Jeff Smith at Salon. Smith lists several smart reasons why it's in Akin's interest to stay in the race -- he's old so there's no chance for a comeback, McCaskill is quite vulnerable, social conservatives love him, and he's won elections before despite being outspent. Yet Smith, too, concludes that it might all come down to Akin being a Jesus freak:
He is a zealot, in every sense of the word. As one top Republican said this morning, “It’s hard to reason with an idiot.” Or maybe, it’s just hard to use worldly logic on someone who is divinely inspired.
Smith has extensive knowledge of Missouri politics, having served in the Missouri Senate from 2006 to 2009 and run for Congress in 2004. He also is an expert on how a politician acts according to desperate self-interest -- not highest principles -- when his political survival is at stake, because when Smith was being investigated for federal elections law violations, he urged former staffers to blame the crime on an aide who had committed suicide.
Akin's reasons for staying in seem less divinely inspired than mathematically inspired. National Journal's Josh Kraushaar reports that Akin decided to stay in when an internal poll showed him in a dead heat with McCaskill. "Akin's internal poll showed 90 percent of respondents were aware of the controversy, leading Akin to conclude he couldn't fall much further," Kraushaar writes. Of course, a poll out today from Rasmussen, which was an automated survey of 500 likely voters conducted on Wednesday, found McCaskill with a 10-point lead. The previous Rasmussen poll, on July 30, found him ahead by 3 points. So, he may be depending on faulty poll numbers (or Rasmussen could be wrong), but all signs point to his decision to stay in the race as data-driven.
Even though he's not attending the Republican National Convention, Akin was in Tampa Wednesday, Politico's Kate Nocera reports. He's meeting with the Council for National Policy, a secretive group of elite evangelicals. Maybe he's feeling out whether they'll back him, even if the Republican senatorial campaign committee won't? And in a few weeks, if the race is still close, will Republicans break their vow to not support him? It seems likely.
Even if he were losing, why would he quit? What is he going to do, be a lobbyist? The success of a lobbyist is not based on expertise or passion about the issue, but the lobbyist's connections -- whether he's pals with the leaders who decide what goes in legislation. Akin reportedly didn't have close ties to Republican leaders before, and he certainly doesn't now. And scandalous politicians who don't resign are rewarded. While Akin might have said something offensive to women, David Vitter actually did something exploitative of women -- visited prostitutes. He was reelected in 2010 as a senator from Louisiana.
The best deal floated so far is a ballot switch with the woman running for his House seat, Ann Wagner, The Kansas City Star's Steve Kraske and Dave Helling report. Another possible replacement being floated is Rep. Jo Ann Emerson. This brings the factor of Akin's causes. Missourians say Emerson is too moderate to have won the Republican Senate primary. Why would Akin give his place on the ballot to someone who won't vote on his principles?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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