Washington (CNN) – Republicans are preparing to, in the words of one senior GOP source, “grind it out for a while” after embattled U.S. Rep. Todd Akin declared he was remaining in the race for U.S. Senate in Missouri despite calls from his party’s leadership to step aside.
Republican officials said Wednesday that they do not expect Akin to bow out of his race against Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill in the next few days and aren’t sure if he’ll ever drop his bid. They are, however, monitoring a few crucial dynamics in the race that will play out in the days ahead.
First is Akin’s ability to raise enough money to sustain his campaign going forward. Party leaders, including Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Sen. John Cornyn, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, have said they won’t provide Akin any campaign cash and his colleagues have canceled fundraisers scheduled for the coming weeks. Outside groups like the super PAC Crossroads GPS have also vowed not to spend any money to help Akin.
But the question remains whether there are enough grassroots activists angry at the party for bailing on Akin who are willing to give money to sustain his campaign. One Republican source said they worry he will be able to “raise money and keep it going for a while.”
Also up for debate is how much money Akin actually needs to remain competitive. The six-term congressman won the GOP primary in early August after being outspent, and has been outraised and outspent many times in his political career. Running on a shoe string is nothing new for him.
Republican Party officials are also watching to see what happens now that Akin is back in Missouri – specifically whether he feels isolated or supported in his home state. He spent the last few days at his campaign consultant’s office in Ohio, so his return home will be the first real chance to gauge his support on the ground.
GOP sources emphasize Akin is a devout evangelical Christian who believes God called on him to run. He has never had the support of the Republican Party establishment throughout his career and based on the safe margins of victory in re-election bids, he never really needed it. Thus, it doesn’t faze him now that the establishment, along with tea party groups and prominent conservative voices like Rush Limbaugh, are calling for him to get out of the way.
Republican officials also point out that Akin’s top advisers are his son and his wife, placing him in an insular environment where outside advice may not be heard. A senior GOP source concluded he “lives in a parallel universe.”
Damage to GOP
The question that remains, then, is how much Akin’s resistance to drop out will hurt the GOP.
Party officials say it hurts a lot. Republicans were relying on turning Missouri red in their bid to capture the U.S. Senate in November. Looking at the map, if they don’t win Senate seats in Montana, Wisconsin and North Dakota, and maintain hold of Massachusetts’ seat, it will be very hard to win the majority.
When it comes to Mitt Romney presidential hopes, GOP officials are upset that the furor over Akin’s comments amplifies the party platform adopted Tuesday calling for a constitutional ban on abortion that makes no exceptions for rape or incest. That’s not Romney’s position, thought it has been a platform plank for some time.
Republicans also bemoan the fact that the national discussion has turned to divisive social issues which could repel swing voters, and not on the economy which they say could attract them.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a co-chair of the Republican platform committee, said the party needed to better highlight women in leadership roles.
"We have some very articulate accomplished women who are elected officials at the local and state and the federal level, they have all shown the ability to lead and I think what people are wanting to do is to see women step forward and take a more prominent leadership role in our party," Blackburn said.
"They want to see how we're going to respond to this," she added.
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