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. 4F

    Akin may have an open ear but his mind is closed. This turd ought to be given an overnight stay in the slammer. Then he could tell us if his rape was legitimate or not.

    August 23, 2012 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  2. John Roberts

    Really, how can anyone vote republican. I just don't get it.

    August 23, 2012 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  3. Skeeve

    He does, doesn't he. May I suggest a high school Biology textbook.

    August 23, 2012 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  4. trex

    AKIN............the complet az zho of the gop................Oh, WAIT..............there's judge in Texas, maybe there can be 2?

    August 23, 2012 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  5. FlyontheWall

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

    This is precisely why know one should ever vote for a conservative republican........This is there mind set....He said a horrible thing, very demeaning to ALL women, and we need to stop the sillyness that is this horrible conservative movement, of intolerance and bigotry.

    His only screw up was that he got caught saying what they say behind closed doors normally, as THIS IS how they think. All of them.

    August 23, 2012 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  6. Pander Bear

    Thank you Christian conservatives for reminding us of your influence during the bad old days of the George W. Bush administration. Your support for this nutcase will probably deliver another 100k Democrats to the polls.

    August 23, 2012 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  7. landofgreatness

    This is basic Republican dogma:

    1) If you get raped, it is obviously your fault – or your lying.

    2) If you lose your job, home and retirement, oh well – its probably your fault.

    3) If you lose your health care, who cares – its surely your fault for your sickness was surely pre-existing.

    4) If you lose your right to vote – its no doubt your fault (we are making sure of that with biased voter I.D. laws)

    5) If you lose your right to collective bargaining, yes and amen, we are making sure of that too.

    6) If you lose your chance at citizenship, hooray! and good riddance!

    7) If you lose your rights to privacy, your were probably a terrorist anyway.

    8) If you lose your money to Wall Street greed, always remember – greed is good.

    9) If you loose all your freedom, thats OK, because we will surely pin that on the Democrats

    10) If you lose your sanity, see: #3 above.

    Signed – Karl Rove, Romney, Cheney and friends

    August 23, 2012 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  8. Larry

    I'm sure he will be paid handsomely to drop the run. With Rove not happy, the cash will flow for sure.

    August 23, 2012 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  9. achepotle

    I like where this is going...I vote for the Romney/Ryan/Akin team in 2012!

    August 23, 2012 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  10. The GOP Voucher Plan will contain a "Legalize Uthanasia" clause and a free gun for suicide

    The old people will need it when their health care money runs out.

    August 23, 2012 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  11. Al-NY,NY

    This is great! This loon is still in the race and will likely lose not only his own election but could possibly turn MO for Obama. Meanwhile Flip does not allow questions about him when doing an interview. Flip and the boy blunder are running from this guy as fast as they can. Unfortunately, he is wrapped around their ankles like a cinder block and until he goes, there is no way the non-dynamic-duo will be able to dodge questions about him. Keep at it Akins. You're doing great!

    August 23, 2012 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  12. george of the jungle

    How did these nut jobs end up running the republican party?? Didn't any of these people get an education???. This indicates that almost half the population has an IQ of less than 80 and they are republicans. poor people are smart enough to disagree with this guy I guess repos don;t need more education . Isnt that what mittens says?

    August 23, 2012 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  13. Starbuck

    So this guys wants to win a seat and make himself a huge target. Go republicans never seen more stupid bunch of people and instead of standing up for whats right they're caving into a small groups bullying.

    August 23, 2012 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  14. Imelda guerra

    I know political correctness is so passe. But maybe these right wing idiots will start to keep their outrageous comments to themselves.

    August 23, 2012 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  15. Liz the First

    I miss the good old days when the word 'Christian' actually mean someone who attempted to follow the teachings of Jesus. these days, it just seems to mean something completely different and scary. i really don't think Jesus would be conducting a war on women.

    August 23, 2012 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  16. Hahahahahahahah

    @john – It's still a Sarah Palin!

    August 23, 2012 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  17. Mimi

    As a woman who lived her first 40 years across the river from St Louis in Illinois, and her last 20 years in St Charles County Missouri, I am sickend that this man is still in the race. However I am curious. Todd, If one of your daughters became pregnant after a legitamate, aka forcable rape, would you, your wife and your family welcome a child from that holy union? After all, it's Gods Plan. Or would that baby be dumped on the side of the road like a litter of puppies or kittens? What would you do?

    August 23, 2012 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  18. sassysticks53

    Don't leave the race Mr. Akin. You are infamous now!

    August 23, 2012 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  19. Ann Ponzi

    It would be nice if more leaders were christian. After all, America was based on Christianity. That way, our leaders would use their christian morals and biblical readings to guide their leadership. Violence would decrease. The 10 commandments could be back in the schools,and the people would be involved in their Christian communities. There would be more cohesiveness in communities and in
    Washington as well.

    August 23, 2012 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  20. sassysticks53

    Hang in there Akin! Ya can't give up now. You're a wonderful gift to democrats. You're now infamous!

    August 23, 2012 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  21. katolungile

    Charley Rangle was able to win, but then again blax always support their own kind no matter what. This guy is toast.

    August 23, 2012 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  22. Juan

    What, he may be quitting??? That is unfair, he still has so much potential. Don't quit man, worse case, you can work at a MCD with a bunch of minorities, sure you'd love it.

    August 23, 2012 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  23. Clint, Wa.

    The GOP is self-destructing from with in.
    They don’t need any help from the Dem’s or anyone else.
    Wait until after their NRC Convention, no not the one at the strip clubs, the other one. At a strip club, would rape be defined as a “legitimate rape”, I mean after all you are paying for it, or would it be defined as Dirty Old Man Entrapment Rape?
    Oh hell, just let them define it to their liking, after all the have a Texas judge in their back pocket who would be more then willing to go to war for them!!!

    August 23, 2012 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  24. Pat

    Hang in there, Todd. Show them what the religious freaks and Repukes are really all about!

    August 23, 2012 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  25. Thomas

    I'm sure there are a few strip clubs where they can talk and work things out.

    August 23, 2012 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
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