August 23rd, 2012
04:39 PM ET
9 years ago

Akin assessing candidacy with conservatives in Florida

Tampa, Florida (CNN) - Facing pressure from Republican heavyweights in Washington to abandon his Missouri Senate bid, Rep. Todd Akin is huddling with top conservative activists in Tampa to assess whether to move forward with his embattled candidacy.

Akin spent Wednesday night and Thursday in a series of private meetings at the two-day summit of the Council For National Policy (CNP), a secretive group of conservative leaders who are meeting in Florida before next week’s Republican National Convention.

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The congressman was scheduled to attend the conference long before he suggested that “legitimate rape” might not cause a woman to become pregnant, comments that have roiled the Republican Party and shifted the focus of the presidential race away from the economy and toward the divisive social issue of abortion - just days before the GOP officially nominates Mitt Romney as its standard-bearer.

Multiple sources at the CNP conference told CNN that Akin is being encouraged by leading figures in the conservative movement to remain in the Senate race even as he faces pressure from Republican establishment.

Still, several of the activists and conservative thought leaders here acknowledged the long odds he faces.

One person attending the summit said many were “spooked” by a poll out Thursday that showed Akin trailing Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill by 10 points, an unthinkable scenario just one week ago.

Asked if Akin is using the meetings to re-evaluate his decision to stay in the Missouri race, a source close to the congressman told CNN that he is “keeping an open ear to those people who are pushing him or questioning him on viability.”

But the source stressed that Akin is “getting a ton of support” from conservatives at the conference.

“He is down there to get input from a group of people who care about the things he cares about,” the Akin source told CNN.

Several of the conservatives attending the conference - most of whom refused to speak on the record because of the secretive nature of the CNP – expressed resentment at the aggressive and heavy-handed treatment of Akin by Republican leaders in Washington who have pressured him to quit the Missouri race.

At least two people at the conference named Karl Rove, a co-founder of the powerful 527 group American Crossroads, as a specific source of frustration.

Rove’s relationship with the activist wing of his party has grown frosty over the years, and sources backing Akin said they might not be rallying to his side with such vigor if Rove was not among those pushing Akin to get out.

Participants in Thursday’s meetings, though, said support for Akin was not universal among conservatives.

Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission at the Southern Baptist Convention, said that while Akin misspoke and has been treated “unfairly,” he should still drop out.

“I think it splits the social conservative movement,” Land told CNN. “Some people say, 'Look, he is our guy, we are going to stand with him. We think he can win.' And some people are saying, 'The odds are this is a fatal blow at least in this election cycle.' For the good of the movement, for the good of the pro life cause, for the good of taking control of the senate for pro life forces, he needs to do what’s best for the cause and throw himself on his shield.”

Akin addressed a small dinner on Wednesday night but made no direct mention of the scandal engulfing his campaign, two sources present for that session told CNN.

The congressman, who has deep ties to the Christian right, is also hosting an invitation-only reception on Thursday evening.

But much of the discussion about the future of his campaign is taking place during face-to-face meetings with top leaders in the conservative movement attending the CNP summit, being held at a hotel near Tampa International Airport.

Ralph Reed, the founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, was among those who spoke privately with Akin on Thursday.

"I'm absolutely confident that Congressman Akin and his team, and he's got a good team around him, are going to be able to make a thorough assessment of whether or not the support is there to be able to continue the campaign," Reed told CNN. "I'm really going to defer to his judgment on it."

Reed declined to reveal details of their conversation, but made plain his sympathy for Akin: “As a general rule, I have devoted my career to encouraging men and women of faith to run for office. I don’t encourage men and women of faith not to run.”

Along with Land and Reed, the conference was attended by Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly, direct mail specialist Richard Viguerie, National Rifle Association Chairman David Keene, former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, pollster Kellyanne Conway, Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser, Americans United For Life founder Charmaine Yoest, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell and many others.

Also present were a fleet of talk radio hosts, communications consultants, school reform activists and several Republican political operatives.

Little is known about the CNP, aside from a website which describes its members as “the country’s most influential conservative leaders in business, government, politics and religion.”

New members must be vouched for and invited by current ones. One person described CNP meetings as a “media free zones” where conservatives can network and strategize freely.

Even members of the group who spoke to CNN anonymously were hesitant to discuss the group, or anything related to the Akin controversy.

“I can't talk about what they talk about here, it’s all confidential,” said one CNP participant. “Sorry.”

When Akin was approached by a CNN camera while sitting on a veranda Thursday outside the hotel, an aide quickly moved to block the photographer’s shot.

Politico first reported Akin's trip to Tampa on Wednesday to attend the conference, but the Akin's whereabouts here and the details of his meetings were not known until Thursday.

- CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash contributed to this report

Filed under: Claire McCaskill • Missouri • Senate
soundoff (191 Responses)
  1. The Real Tom Paine

    Oh dear, is he aborting his candidacy? I thought he was called by the Lord to press on. Perhaps his body will undergo a reaction to stop this attempt by the Party Bosses at shuting his campaign down.....I could go on and on.

    August 23, 2012 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  2. scott

    Can full O Nuts!

    August 23, 2012 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  3. Phil Thomas

    The truth is Lieberman had the DNC turn their back and on him and he won, so why can't this guy. The RNC puts these nut jobs in front job us it never stops, one after another they just show how easy it is for a Dim Wit to join Congress as long as he has Koch brother Millions behind him or her.

    August 23, 2012 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  4. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Rove’s relationship with the activist wing of his party has grown frosty over the years, and sources backing Akin said they might not be rallying to his side with such vigor if Rove was not among those pushing Akin to get out."

    Oh, my. And Mitt Romney has himself one very big headache right about now. There is no way Mr. Mittens will be able to keep his Party in line. No way. He absolutely lacks the leaderships skills as proven by this debacle, and he and his running mate's 90 degree turnaround flip-flopping on any given subject on any given day of any given week.

    Frosty, indeed, Mr. Rove.

    August 23, 2012 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  5. cali girl

    Akin just keep it up. The more you stay in the game the more we learn about all the platform issues of the Party of No.

    August 23, 2012 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  6. CanadaONE

    GOP devided – Republicans fractured

    will thge REAL republicans stand up

    August 23, 2012 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  7. Sniffit

    Hurricane Todd, the Teatroll of a Tempest. Unless the GOP/Teatrolls nationally repudiate him AND their "no abortions, no exceptions" platform, the latter of which is probably too late to do anyway, then this whole thing will continue to damage them. On the other hand, this whole thing kicked the angry white conservative krischun nashun theocrat anthill and they are NOT going to be happy if the GOP/Teatrolls toss Akin out on his wrinkled patoot and rewrite the party platform to make exceptions for woman who so enjoyed getting raped that their bodies didn't fight off pregnancy.

    August 23, 2012 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  8. Kris Craig

    The Teabaggers claim to be all about transparency. But then we see them attending secretive boys' clubs like this. What are they talking about that makes them so afraid of being recorded?

    This sort of secrecy is un-American. Anyone who attends this "conference" to discuss *public* policy (key word being "public") does not deserve to be (re)elected.

    August 23, 2012 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    "will thge REAL republicans stand up"

    Sorry, there are none. Lincoln's and Teddy's party is dead.

    August 23, 2012 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  10. Willard

    A "Secretive groups, private meetings"? Stay in race, we love it!

    August 23, 2012 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |

    The conservative Gop trash are going to find out in Nov ,that they don't call the shots in the USA ,move to Iran and take the rest of the Gop freaks with you ,losers ,all your mothers should have had abortions!!!!!

    August 23, 2012 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  12. Sharkmann

    How much money and how many sweet government jobs, and consultancy positions will the Republicans promise this guy to get him to quit? A lot and we will be pay8ing the bill.

    August 23, 2012 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  13. V

    Wonder what cushy job he will be offered to bow out?

    August 23, 2012 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  14. Sharkmann

    How much money and how many sweet government jobs, and consultancy positions will the Republicans promise this guy to get him to quit? A lot, and we will be paying the bill.

    August 23, 2012 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  15. bankkiller1

    The "christian" right is well known for rejecting science fact. How old is the earth Mr. Akin?

    August 23, 2012 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  16. CNN Fan

    I think GOP looks better without Tea Party...I used to respect GOP..not anymore....because there are too many extremists that make GOP looks so bad....and more Americans dislike GOP now...

    August 23, 2012 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  17. myviewis

    I was given literature to read on Scientology and got some books of my own to read on Scientology and Akin's ideas and beliefs are right up there with Scientology so I wonder how many like John Travolta, Tom Cruise agree with Akin.

    August 23, 2012 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  18. Captain Obvious

    The GOP has no redeeming qualities.

    August 23, 2012 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  19. JORGE

    'Council For National Policy (CNP), a secretive group of conservative leaders" are Running the REPUBLICAN PARTY.
    This are PUBLIC OFFICES they are running for or hold. How can the leaders of a POLITICAL PARTY BE A SECRETE GROUP!

    August 23, 2012 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  20. myviewis


    How much money and how many sweet government jobs, and consultancy positions will the Republicans promise this guy to get him to quit? A lot, and we will be paying the bill.

    Obama has taken the lead in this, haven't you seen how many useless people are working in the White House who normally would not have been qualified for such government job.

    August 23, 2012 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  21. Howard

    HYPOCRISY is valuing endorsement of a cheating womanizer, who publicly humiliateded his wife, like Bill Clinton, while demonizing Todd Akin, for making a verbal misstep.

    August 23, 2012 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  22. apple pie

    Unchain Akin now!!

    August 23, 2012 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  23. Orwell sees it, again & again

    American Religious wingnuts, leading the world in newly invented religions, seems to be led by the secretive republican Council for National Policy.

    CNP, strategists for nuclear weapons and creationism.

    Got to wonder besides sacrificing little animals and reading random serial numbers off $100 bills, what other magical powers they have to define the divine.

    August 23, 2012 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  24. bgun2

    Name your sources or shut up, otherwise any intelligent person must call this just a pack of lies.

    August 23, 2012 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  25. 1CentFree

    Don't let them talk you out of it Akin! The American people want you to see this through! We need to see you in the spotlight for the next 8 weeks!! The country is counting on you!

    August 23, 2012 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
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