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. Jack Be Humble

    It's an honest mistake. You could throw yourself on your shield of faith, or you could throw yourself on your sword of truth.

    August 23, 2012 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  2. Pat in IL

    They let santorum, Perry, Cain, Bachman, etc actually run for president, for heaven's case....what a weird, uneducated bunch the Republicans have turned into. Scary!

    August 23, 2012 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  3. Pat in IL

    Typo....for heaven's sake.

    August 23, 2012 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  4. Hillcrester

    Akins is a dead candidate walking. He is about to see the need to spend more quality time with his family.

    August 23, 2012 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  5. DRAKE MALLARD

    However, the stadium where the GOP will be announcing “We Built This!” was financed primarily by the government. The Tampa Bay Times Forum arena, which houses the Tampa Bay Lightning, was built in 1996 as the “Ice Palace” with 62% government funds. The total budget for the project was $139 million, of which public money accounted for $86 million and team money accounted for $53 million.

    August 23, 2012 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  6. Larry

    @Myviewis: Do you also own a pointy tin hat?

    August 23, 2012 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  7. bigfoot

    I surely hope he stays in.

    August 23, 2012 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  8. Lamar

    Mr. Akin don't abandon your candidacy. Don't listen to Paul Ryan who has the same belief as you. You should be mad at him for asking you to stop your candidacy. Where is the principle of this man called Paul Ryan.

    August 23, 2012 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  9. Michelle

    My understanding of this is that it would now require a court order to replace him on the ballot. There is NO legitimate reason to do so. He was given a chance to withdraw and publicly declined. So what basis is there for a court order? Sounds like the RNC has already bought the necessary judge(s) for the job. Nothing new there.

    August 23, 2012 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  10. Bri-Guy24

    They claim to be so religious and know all the facts.,...If this is true, why is mother nature unleashing Hurricane Issac right at Tampa during the convention. Better build the "Ark" Akin.. The floods are coming!

    August 23, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  11. bigfoot

    I find myself agreeing with the ultr-conservatives for one of the few times in my life. He should stay in the race.

    August 23, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  12. once upon a horse

    you know the strange thing about this is that Missouri still just might vote this guy into office. The state of Missouri has become just about as red as Mississippi., South Carolina and my present resident state of Texas and outside the large metro areas or college towns there is nothing there but right wing fanatics. I was born and lived in Missouri and I know what's there, the homestate for Rush Limbaugh and the likes of Kit Bond. There is a reason many call this state MISERY...it's a very good place to be FROM indeed.

    August 23, 2012 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  13. chilly g

    i hope this guy stay in the race because with him in the race we are almost certian to win not only
    the senate seat but the entire state .

    August 23, 2012 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  14. leaf

    Jack Be Humble
    It's an honest mistake. You could throw yourself on your shield of faith, or you could throw yourself on your sword of truth. or you can throw yourself under the bus ......

    August 23, 2012 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  15. Jrdz

    I say let him stay int he race the longer the better. Just maybe people will start to wake up and smell the coffee and realize they should not vote for crack pots and nut cases who spew the fox fake news BS.

    August 23, 2012 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  16. guest

    he's at the strip clubs there in Tampa...read the other article on CNN

    August 23, 2012 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  17. cardog

    It does my heart good to hear the comments coming from people that see the high-jacked Republican party for what they have become. After the positions these people have taken, from state governors, to leaders in the TeapubliCANT House, to Mitch McConnell, they truely believe that being the party of NO, by attempting to bust unions, by limiting Americans of color, the elderly from voting (actually a return of the the old southern Poll Tax), this is where the people of our nation wants to go?
    I nor anyone else should feel the need to ask these questions but the real scary thing is, I and others must ask these questions because we have a large number of our population who cannot/will not see beyond the fanatasim of how these people think. Does not matter that U.S. citizen's right are being tampered with. Does not matter that not one of their TeapubliCANT representatives have worked to create jobs for YOU, does not matter that our debt needs to be worked on by both parties...None is this matters. All that matters is they must get this Black guy out of the White House. If jobs can be created or if the country's infa-structure needs to be and can be fixed, lets wait and see if our constant demonizing of the president will work on the weak brained, the lemmings that will follow where-ever Fox News or Rush Limbaugh tells them to go. If we win, most likely nothing will change except for the wealthy getting wealthier, the middle-class shrinking even more and maybe to influence business, they can start a war with Iran. But lets win first, then since it worked telling idiots that they can be like them if you only support us..wink wink!

    August 23, 2012 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  18. 1CentFree

    Akin should push to take Romney's place and run for president.

    August 23, 2012 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  19. pn

    They could move him to the sorcery committee.

    August 23, 2012 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  20. aflyer guy

    When will the american people stop listening to the gop lies and vote democrat?! The gop has hidden agendas, and is only concened about consolidating power for the one percent.I am voting for obama/biden!!!

    August 23, 2012 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  21. Voxhumana

    I think the entire meeting must have a collective IQ of 65.

    August 23, 2012 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  22. JORGE

    Who We Are: "The Center for National Policy is an independent think tank dedicated to advancing the economic and national security of the United States." from the cnp own web page..

    how can they claim to be Independent when they are the leaders of the REPUBLICAN PARTY.

    August 23, 2012 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  23. James PDX

    These conservative groups don't care if their candidates are stupid, ignorant and/or liars, as long as they espouse the appropriate extremist views they drool over.

    August 23, 2012 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  24. myviewis

    Larry

    @Myviewis: Do you also own a pointy tin hat?
    ----------------–

    Oh I'm not a Scientologist but the more I read the more I have come to understand why Rep. Akin has been voted in for so many years and that he might actually have support from those in Hollywood that are Scientology and pretty much follow the same line of thinking. Actors like Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley.

    August 23, 2012 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  25. Lou50

    The media is just as biased as the polls so he needs to run and see how the people that turn out think. We have to do something to counter act the 52% certified fools that put Obama in office last time. Who would have thought people were that stupid!

    August 23, 2012 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
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