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. EGB2

    Don't give up, Rep. Akin! Stay in the race. Very truly yours, the Democratic Party.

    August 23, 2012 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  2. New Gawker

    They decided his next move is to beat up a gay person, a black person and a woman. That way he is sure to capture the republican vote.

    August 23, 2012 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  3. Lando

    Republicans does not get pregnant when they get raped....only Democrats and Independents...yeheeeyyyy
    They are blessed with special secretions...

    August 23, 2012 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  4. John

    To quote one other well known republican, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a....

    August 23, 2012 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    Excellent...great distraction from discussion of real issues country is facing.

    August 23, 2012 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  6. Rob

    People are missing the point that is being made. The guy may have a blunder with his word choice but what he spoke of with ban abortion has been and will be the conservative stance. They even adopted it yesterday for their national agenda. I don't support Akin in anyway but people are not realizing that what he spoke is what his base feels in regard to abortion and rape.

    August 23, 2012 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  7. TBS

    These right wingers really love secrecy!!!

    August 23, 2012 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  8. sbreezy

    i cannot believe that there are still 50% of the ignorant fools in missouri that can look themselves in the eye and support this jerk. There is something very, very wrong in the middle of this country and you people need to take a long look at your lives and the things you believe in.

    August 23, 2012 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  9. Unknown

    Why wasn't there as much coverage for Biden's "...chains..." comment which was absolutely racist? Hmmm. Oh he's democrat so free pass from CNN, MSNBC, NBC, CBS, ABC, Washington Post, NY Times, and on and on

    August 23, 2012 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  10. Barrack Obama

    I surely encourage him to stay in. I think he should walk arm and arm with Romney into the convention and fight the good fight.

    August 23, 2012 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  11. Snakebit

    We like to think that our politicians are intelligent, thoughtful people who have a basic understanding of things outside of politics (like science and anatomy maybe?). Unfortunately, we find out every day that politicians can be as dumb and undereducated as the average person on the street, especially in the areas of science. A sad commentary on our educational system and our religious leaders who foster this kind of idiocy.

    August 23, 2012 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  12. So much for Social Conservatives

    Gotta love the Christian Right, so loyal, so dependable, so quickly jettisoned....

    Hang in there Akin

    August 23, 2012 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  13. Norman

    Obviously Mr. Akin is not familiar with the terminology: obtuse.

    August 23, 2012 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  14. Gary

    Do you think Claire McCaskill is sitting back, drinking wine saying this was the easiest race for re-election in her career?

    August 23, 2012 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  15. Too Much

    This dude is toast and he knows it.

    August 23, 2012 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  16. Gary

    Akin' while in Floridais going to test out his Legitimate rape theory on the exotic dancers waiting for that GOP money.

    August 23, 2012 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  17. legitimate legislator

    Akin will exit when he gets a legitimate pile of money from the party pimps to do so.

    August 23, 2012 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  18. mike Va

    These extremists are enabled by the media. CNN cares more about "balancing quote" and "balancing' than they do about reporting the facts, investigating the truth. I would love for Gergen and King to explain private equity again. That was awesomely bad. CNN was supremely positioned as a 60 minutes like badger for facts and stories and they turned into the play book for the GOP.

    Have you seen the mountain of legislation to control women? Paul Ryan put his name on "forcible rape". He suggested jailing women for controlling their private health! The GOP has a platform with no exceptions. No exceptions, not even the health of a mother! Just stop. Pregnancy has a lot of risks and these lunatics want to threaten the future of women with miscarriages. CNN is still too busy finding "balancing quotes" and "balance".

    August 23, 2012 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  19. Mike

    No, Todd, don't listen to the other Republicans. Stay in the race. See the light. Follow the light. Folloooowww.
    –Claire M.

    August 23, 2012 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  20. Jackson

    And this man is on the science commiitee?????


    August 23, 2012 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  21. There all the same club

    I dont know what the right word for this guy would be. Somebody help me. Ignorant, stupid,clueless, moron......

    August 23, 2012 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  22. Jasel

    Well you can always count on conservatives to double down on stupid.

    August 23, 2012 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  23. Voice of Reaon

    This is the second time today that someone told Akin to "fall on his shield". I believe that the extreme Right needs some education on this point. One does NOT fall on one's shield, one falls on one's SWORD. Personally I hope that he stays in the race and rallys all of the extreme right to his campaign. That would be most entertaining and help to keep the president irght where he bleongs – in the Oval Office.

    August 23, 2012 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  24. LetsBeCivil

    Scarier than Akins' poor choice of words or his ignorance of science or that he's on the Science Committee is how the Republican Party is condemming him for saying in public something the Party is enschrining in their platform but does not want anyone to talk about: How they really ARE against abortions... with NO exceptions! Even Paul Ryan, their VP pick, says he'll back Romney's anti-abortion stance which allows for exceptions for rape and incest "because it's a step in the right direction". So what do you suppose the next step is? They will surely take it if they get control of Congress.

    August 23, 2012 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  25. AgrippaMT

    Let the right wing swine stay in the race. He does more damage to the Republican ticket by staying on the ballot than if he quits. He ensures Claire McKaskill's easy reelection and continued Democratic control of the Senate.

    August 23, 2012 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
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