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. JD

    Stay in Adkin!!! Democrats are happy you are there!!! Keep up the good work, Palin can't do it all for ya'll!!!

    August 23, 2012 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  2. Journey to My Higher Self

    Really ... can you trust someone that parts their hair that far over?!!

    August 23, 2012 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  3. Sharkmann

    Before the week is through, Republicans will be the heroes for distancing themselves from this guy and most Americans will buy that story.

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

    [Ralph] Reed....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.”
    ... and you can add: " matter how much their faith have made them blind to reality."

    August 23, 2012 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  5. Westerman1

    The fact that Akin still has support speaks volumes about the Council for National Policy, aka Freak Show.

    August 23, 2012 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  6. MR FunkyBunch

    The real question here is Is Paul Ryan a secret atheist? asks that questions...

    August 23, 2012 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  7. nonyabidnes2

    Source: Akin 'keeping an open ear' amid pressure Too bad he seems unwilling to apologize for such a hurtful comment. What good are ears if you are not listening???? Leave Now!!!

    August 23, 2012 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  8. us_1776

    Akin's still leading in his race. He'll win. Too bad.


    August 23, 2012 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  9. us_1776

    Akin's still leading in his race. He'll win. Too bad.


    August 23, 2012 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  10. MCR

    No! Stay in the race! We Democrats need you to run!

    August 23, 2012 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  11. allenwoll

    I suggest that Akin get an artist to creat a little pet talking fetus - "a kin" to the little green limey gecko so successfully used by Geico insurance.

    Akin : The Poster Child for the Conservative GoP Taliban ! ! !

    But WHICH ONE shall be our STATE religion ? ? ?

    August 23, 2012 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  12. BK

    I wish there was a way to prevent stupid people from being in office to begin with.

    August 23, 2012 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  13. biglio

    CNP, a very secretive group, exactly what America needs, secretive groups running the country.....VOTE REPUBLICAN!!!!

    August 23, 2012 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  14. malcolm in St Louis

    Fall on his shield? How about fall on his sword? It is quicker....

    August 23, 2012 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  15. oknotokok

    Please, stay in the race. Help Obama win!!!

    August 23, 2012 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  16. chris

    Todd Akin didn't misspeak, or use the wrong word, he made an idiotic, asinine, indefensible statement. He's a tool. He has a horrible, phony, comb over hair-do (I could have left that out but it bugs me). He's an embarrassment to Missouri. I don't know many people from Missouri but I trust that they're solid, decent people. They will not elect him. It's the "Show-Me" state, show me you're an ignorant idiot and you'll be relegated to the scrap heap of political morons. Good riddance Todd, don't let the door hit you where the good lord split you.

    August 23, 2012 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  17. Dr.GreenThumb

    He L0 0ks like a tur tle to me.

    CNN censored me saying L0 0ks spelled without the zero and spacing...

    C ommunist
    N ews
    N etwork

    August 23, 2012 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  18. Dr.GreenThumb

    Did you get this?

    August 23, 2012 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  19. Matt

    And yet another well-known Texas republican, when asked about rape and women, quipped, 'Rape is like a Texas thunderstorm, just lay back and enjoy it."

    Recently, in neighboring Oklahoma, a grizzled old grandpa-type was arrested for raping a 4-H blue-ribbon pig at the show barn. Officers were alerted by both the terrified squeals of the victim as well as the older gentleman screaming, "Here I come, Jesus."

    August 23, 2012 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  20. alan_turing

    He will step down by Monday. Of course there will be crocodile tears from all concerned. Good of the party, you see. Willard has enough Bain/tax trouble now.

    August 23, 2012 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  21. Zwei Stein

    Romney and Ryan made a big deal out of asking him to pull out of ...(not that)...the race. This they did in order to keep some of the Independent voters with them. But, they didn't really mean it. They want him to hang in there. I'm sure that the CNP has all the underlying tactics in place to advance their strategy.

    August 23, 2012 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  22. korkea aika

    I'm smiling ear to ear. Infighting just before the Republican Convention over social issues instead of the economy. And a tropical storm brewing. There is a God, and She's had enough of these fake religious conservatives. Amen

    August 23, 2012 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  23. Twolf159

    With all that has been said I think the need for a third major party is becoming more and more clear. The major issue with is can a third party, call it the Centralist party make a large enough difference and/or cause our government to realize it should be working with each other for the people verse all the grand standing and petty politics that I'm sure we will see between now and election day.

    August 23, 2012 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  24. korkea aika

    Maybe Sarah Palin could have a spot to discuss teenage, unwed pregnancies, since she has so much experience with this subject

    August 23, 2012 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  25. Phil muse

    Wait until the very last moment to bow out, Todd, so you can get the biggest possible payoff from the GOP for dropping out of public life. (And dont blow it all at the same strip club!)

    August 23, 2012 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
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