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. jay

    Why are you thinking of getting out when you actually voiced what the Republican Party believes? Stick by your truth and remind us of where your party will take the country if they are elected.

    August 23, 2012 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    Akin is an arshole and ALL sane republicans agree. Only the mentally or disturbed still support him. I'm a fiscally conservative and socially liberal Republican.

    August 23, 2012 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  3. Amazing

    This is the sme man who said outsiders should tell the people of Mssuri what to do. But, it is ok to go to outsiders now! What a hypocrite! This guy may have use inappropriate language but he said what he really feels in his heart.

    August 23, 2012 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  4. gstlab3

    I think this man was paid to say this where it could be heard loud and clear to give us dumbed down Americans something other than the real news to worry about all the while the government steals more of our money and destroys our freedoms.

    If anybody is this old and stupid they should be removed from office and given a mental health exame right way to see if they've has a stroke or something like that.

    Well does anyone have a better answer that does'nt help the communists look good??

    Uhhh..., not eh., The Communists.,I mean obummer and the Democrats???

    Yeah this was faked up.

    Does this guy owe lots of money or does he have a dirty little secrete??

    August 23, 2012 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  5. Mm

    The irony...Paul Ryan tries to distance himself from Akin, who he has co-authored many bills with, even a recent abortion bill...flakey as it was.... Because of Akin's "extreme ideology". And yet Paul Ryan, himself, is much more to the extreme right than Akin ever thought of being...

    August 23, 2012 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  6. Sue

    What really chaps the republicans about Akin (and the supremely weird guy Head, down in Lubbock) is that these two are saying out loud what the rest of them are actually thinking. They don't have the cojones to speak the truth and they don't like these two for being willing to be honest about what the. Republican party is truly thinking and actually planning. These old boys are not the 'odd men out', they're just the tip of the iceberg.Let's hope there are enough intelligent Americans to keep us frmo getting sunk by these fools!

    August 23, 2012 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  7. dlwech

    Can't figure our which is scarier: the fact that Akins meets with a 'secretive group' like the CNP, or that after revealing how uninformed and dumb he is, he only trails McCaskill by 10 points. Hellooooo Missouri, are you paying attention?

    August 23, 2012 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  8. Marie MD

    Besides the "legitimate" rape and akin's and the boy toy's vp nominee view against women these word scare the heck out of me . . . . . "secretive group of conservative leaders"
    Isn't this how hitler got started in Germany? Even bn laden's meetings in the caves with his terrorists don't scare me as much as the teapublikkklans and repugs do.

    August 23, 2012 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  9. Ron

    So Ralph Reed told Akin, "I'm really going to defer to his judgment on it." Yeah, this is a guy who has shown impeccable judgement.

    August 23, 2012 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  10. rob brewer

    That's sword, not shield. One throws oneself on his sword, not his shield, assuming one has a sword.

    August 23, 2012 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  11. thenewblack138

    I love this new gop trend! just say what you mean, you dont like blacks, gays, women or latinos fine don't be ashamed ! That's who you are!

    August 23, 2012 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  12. jay

    Why are you thinking of getting out when you actually voiced what the Republican Party extremists believes? Stand in your truth and remind us of where your party will take the country if they are elected.

    August 23, 2012 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  13. DAVID

    this guy said what he said trying to defend the "no exceptions" for abortions belief and now plank of the republican party! bad defense statement! the republicans are now running away from him. is it because of what he said or did it bring to light true republican beliefs! its kind of the way repubs always have done things. their big deal about the budget is it because its the number one thing that needs to be fixed or is it a easy way for them to cut social programs that don't fit their ideology. if you balanced the budget today it would not creat jobs , it would not lower unemployment rates and it would not have any effect on our real problem which is a low demand for goods and services. thats what caused the crash in 1929 and the low demand put lots of people out of work! you repubs are being had again with the bait and switch game!

    August 23, 2012 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  14. 2buttercups

    Sounds like 1992 all over again. Remember what happened the last time these individuals got involved?

    August 23, 2012 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  15. andrew

    Christians couldn't possibly rally around Todd Akin: these are POLITICAL CHRISTIANS driven by callings other than The Sermon on The Mount. If they truly believe in Christ, they should re-read it in Matthew Chapter 5.If they read it again, they'd remember what Jesus Christ was all about, and he wasn't about flying forgiveness to politicians who believe some rapes are 'OK'. That's what SATAN preaches – not what Jesus teaches. They're mixing it up and spinning it up to win a STUPID election; how low some people will stoop for political purpose. It's sickening.

    August 23, 2012 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  16. World Peace 4 Ever

    aching head

    August 23, 2012 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  17. Jack

    Todd Akin is nothing more or less than the true face of today's Republican party. A case in point why all Republicans should be voted out.

    August 23, 2012 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  18. Paul f

    Why did the party allow Atkin to run unopposed for five terms? If he is so bad should not the party bosses get someone to run against him in a very red district. The party only wants the social conservative votes but not let them be in charge.

    August 23, 2012 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  19. World Peace 4 Ever

    RR How's your Aching Head?

    August 23, 2012 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  20. sheeple1

    He should stay in. True pro-lifers have always been the second class members of the republican party. the corporatists who run it do not care about abortion and in fact want the issue to remain alive so people who would not otherwise side with them on economic and other social issues will feel compelled to vote R. if you believe life is sacred, how is its the fetuses fault it was created by rape? aborting that child is murder, period. Akin should stay in even if it costs the money worshipping rulersa of the R party to focus the issues so that abortion is outlawed at last. Akin should be proud if he made this happen by staying in the race even though it might end up costing Romney and his friends a few shekels.

    August 23, 2012 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  21. Renee

    Why ?

    August 23, 2012 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |

    Akin is the very expression of GOP policy. Along with his out of touch mentality. Remember that when you vote.

    August 23, 2012 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  23. Fed up

    Haha poor liberals are offended, I say put me all BACK in chains...that'd be ok with me

    August 23, 2012 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  24. msirt

    "...throw himself on his shield.”? What the hell good would that do? I think his sword would be the more appropriate weapon.

    August 23, 2012 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  25. Jack FIds

    The GOP has no respect for the voter as witnessed by the demand that he step down rather than let the voter decide .
    The AMAZING thing is the number of conservatives making threats against him & his staff ! They will spin it that is the Liberals making the threats but EVERY Liberal I know WANTS Akin to stay in place & thus tilt the election towards McCaskill.
    The "angry ones" REALLY want to throw him under the Bus, pretty soon the whole GOP will be under the Bus & there'll be no party ..(wait for it)....left on the right !

    August 23, 2012 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
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