Rep. W. Todd Akin is now locked in as the Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Missouri after the deadline to withdraw passed this week, and a growing number of Republicans have started lining up behind him as their only option for holding on to the seat.
His Democratic opponent, incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill, relieved that Mr. Akin can no longer drop out, also ramped up her game. She released a new television ad highlighting the controversial rape comments that had caused many Republicans to abandon Mr. Akin in the first place.
On Wednesday, however, Sen. Jim DeMint and former Sen. Rick Santorum, both of whom hold the reins to political action committees that could help Mr. Akin, offered their endorsements. And after having said it would withhold all its funding, the National Republican Senatorial Committee said it is keeping a close eye on the race, calling Mr. Akin a "far more preferable candidate."
"As with every Republican Senate candidate, we hope Todd Akin wins in November and we will continue to monitor this race closely in the days ahead," said NRSC Executive Director Rob Jesmer.
Republican leaders told Mr. Akin to withdraw last month after he gave a local interview in which he said women's bodies have ways of rejecting pregnancies when they are victims of "legitimate rape." Some Republicans even told Mr. Akin to resign his seat in the House.
Mr. Akin, who has insisted all along that Republicans will end up supporting him, said he's "proud" of the endorsements.
"Rick Santorum and Jim DeMint know that Claire McCaskill has voted with President Obama 98 percent of the time, she was the deciding vote for Obamacare and has voted to increase our national debt by $6.9 trillion," he said.
But the big question is how much they'll contribute in dollars and advertising to his weakened campaign. While Mr. DeMint has personally endorsed him, the Senate Conservatives Fund that the senator founded — and its related super PAC — has said it's still mulling whether to jump in.
Mrs. McCaskill's campaign said that the lukewarm nature of the support shows through.
"You can tell these endorsements are enthusiastic just by the way these Republicans waited until they were stuck with Todd Akin to finally support him," spokesman Erik Dorey said.
Some super PACs have said they're still not getting behind Mr. Akin — including American Crossroads, founded by Karl Rove.
Claiming to have raised $600,000 online over the last month, Mr. Akin's campaign has been running on small donations.
His campaign and Mrs. McCaskill's reserved more air time this week, with Mr. Akin making six new ad buys in the St. Louis and Kansas City markets, and Mrs. McCaskill making four, according to filings with the Federal Communications Commission. But she's made 135 ad buys in the state's major markets since Aug. 1, compared with 76 made by Mr. Akin. She has enthusiastic backing from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and outside groups such as Emily's List — which announced Wednesday it will begin running its first attack ad against Mr. Akin this week.
Democrats on Wednesday also accused Mr. Akin of changing his stance and embracing a ban on earmarks in exchange for support from the Senate Conservatives Fund.
The Missouri Democratic Party filed an ethics complaint saying discussions Mr. Akin admitted having with the super PAC violate election law, which prevents coordination with a candidate.
"Bribery. It's not a word we throw around lightly," party chairman Mike Sanders said.
Mr. Akin, who has supported earmarks in the past but reportedly agreed to support a ban on earmarks last week, didn't respond to the ethics complaint Wednesday.
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