Todd Akin’s campaign accuses Crossroads, NRSC of wanting Claire McCaskill to win Senate race
Republican Rep. Todd Akin’s campaign is accusing influential GOP-affiliated organizations that refuse to spend money to help the Republican senate candidate of genuinely wanting Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill to win the hotly contested senate contest in Missouri.
Rick Tyler, a senior adviser to Akin, told The Daily Caller this week that Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn’s National Republican Senatorial Committee are trying to undermine Akin.
“I believed at one time they did want Akin to win, even though they didn’t want to admit it,” Tyler told TheDC. “I’m convinced now they don’t want Akin to win.”
In August, Akin told a news station that “the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down” if a “legitimate rape” occurs, prompting outrage and condemnation from both sides of the political aisle.
The race might even determine which party will control the U.S. Senate next year. But both Crossroads GPS and the NRSC, which are spending millions to help Republican Senate candidates across the country, vowed not to support Akin in any way after they determined his rape comment threatened to hurt other Republican candidates across the country, according to Tyler.
“It is incomprehensible to me how Rove and Crossroads GPS and the NRSC could possibly stay out of this race” unless they want Akin to lose in November, Tyler told TheDC in a phone interview.
Akin has stayed in the race despite facing pressure to resign from top-level Republicans, including Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
“They would rather lose this race and give it to McCaskill than have Todd Akin win,” Tyler said. “This has somehow gotten to be personal with them. So they’re willing to throw away the Senate majority. They’re willing to keep Obamacare right where it is.”
The NRSC and Crossroads would beg to differ.
NRSC communications director Brian Walsh declined to comment specifically on Tyler’s accusations, but said that the organization is supportive of all Republican Senate candidates.
“The NRSC has made clear that we support Congressman Akin and hope that he wins in November,” Walsh said.
An official with Crossroads suggested the organization is focusing on priority races, implying that Akin is not a competitive enough candidate to merit support.
“Crossroads is quite supportive of grassroots conservatives who are competitive in our polling, like George Allen and Richard Mourdock,” Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio told TheDC, referring to the Republican candidates in Virginia and Indiana.
Tyler speculated that an Akin win would undermine these groups’ importance by showing that Republicans can win with grassroots support alone, without the television ads funded by outside organizations.
“They can’t afford to have Todd Akin win,” Tyler said. “If Akin wins, their whole theory goes out the window, because it will be proven they can actually win campaigns by doing grassroots, by mobilizing Christian voters, by mobilizing conservatives to activate against the establishment.”
“Todd Akin disrupts their business model,” Tyler added. “To me, that’s the only thing in my mind that rationalizes their behavior — they would rather win television commissions than win the Senate.”
Collegio declined to respond directly to that assertion. But officials at Crossroads frequently point out that they have low overhead and employ a competitive media buy bidding process.
A handful of leading conservatives, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, have stood behind Akin, arguing that the party should not abandon the candidate.
And the Senate Conservatives Fund, Republican Sen. Jim DeMint’s PAC, described the withdrawal of Republican groups from Akin’s corner as an “attack … from the Republican establishment” in an email to supporters.
But a Republican official, speaking on background, pointed out that the NRSC does not have unlimited funds and has to be selective about where it commits its resources.
“The NRSC is on track to spend over $5 million in Indiana and Arizona, which are two states that many had hoped [Republicans] would not have to spend money in,” the official said.
The NRSC has also stayed out of other potentially competitive Senate races, such as the Ohio and Florida contests.
The official criticized the Akin campaign for not releasing any polling data to prove it is competitive in Missouri.
“At a minimum, if the numbers were good, that would have boosted their fundraising several weeks ago,” the official said.
With polls showing McCaskill holding onto a single-digit lead, however, some observers have said the groups’ continuing refusal to get involved amounts to cutting off their nose to spite their face.
“Unless Akin gets completely crushed, they’ll look bad either way: if he wins, it shows that candidates can win by running against them; if he loses narrowly, they might have let their stubborn pride get in the way of taking back the Senate,” said Jeff Smith, a former Democratic state senator from Missouri.
“The only way they could possibly look good is by winning the Senate back without winning Missouri, and they have to pull an inside straight for that to happen,” Smith said.
Smith said he was “not totally convinced that NRSC or Crossroads wouldn’t come back in during the last few weeks,” calling their insistence on staying out “just a pride thing now.”
Walsh, the NRSC communications director, would not comment on any hypothetical scenario.
“We don’t broadcast our spending strategy to the Democrats, but we’re closely monitoring the race, as we do with every Senate race,” he said.
The Akin campaign has not yet released its third quarter fundraising numbers. Two weeks ago, McCaskill announced a $5.8 million haul. The Akin campaign’s silence suggests that their numbers are nowhere near that high.
A cash infusion from the NRSC or Crossroads could help make up for the likely deficit.
Crossroads began running ads in Missouri attacking McCaskill as early as 2011, long before she had a Republican opponent, and both Crossroads and the NRSC had reserved airtime for the general election.
“I think that anybody who’s been watching TV in Missouri over the past 18 months knows that Crossroads and the NRSC have spent a lot of time and money trying to stop Claire McCaskill,” said McCaskill spokesperson Caitlin Legacki.
Tyler estimated that groups pulling their funding had taken “anywhere from $5 million to $9 million” out of the race.
“We’ve held out own without their help,” he insisted, “and no one thought we’d be where we are.”