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Gingrich predicts deluge of GOP money for Akin

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 24, 2012 - Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich predicted Monday that he’ll be the first in a wave of well-known Republicans and allied groups to descend on Missouri to help Republican U.S. Senate nominee Todd Akin -- especially after Tuesday's withdrawal deadline has passed.

“I believe by mid-October, all of them will be in,’’ said Gingrich in a news conference with Akin at the Kirkwood train station before a lunchtime fundraiser at a nearby restaurant.

“What’s the moral case for not backing the Republican nominee?” Gingrich asked, emphasizing the national political stakes if U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is re-elected Nov. 6.

“Republicans across this country understand that Todd Akin is key to our winning control of the Senate,’’ Gingrich said. “Every Republican needs to ask himself a question: Do you really want (Nevada Sen.) Harry Reid back as the majority leader?”

A key reason for the renewed focus on Missouri, Gingrich acknowledged, was the uncomfortable closeness of several other Senate contests in other states -- including North Dakota, Virginia and Montana -- where Republicans initially had hoped would be easy pickups in their quest to wrest control of the Senate from Democrats.

In the case of Missouri, Gingrich asserted that Akin was well positioned to prevail because McCaskill was out of step with the state's conservative  voters on fiscal and social issues.

Could Akin take a page from Harry's playbook?

He then compared Akin to then-Sen. Harry S Truman in 1940, when Truman was seeking re-election and was opposed by "the St. Louis and Kansas City machine."

Truman's old seat, by the way, is the one that's now occupied by McCaskill and sought by Akin.

"Harry Truman got in a car with one driver and he spent six months going to every small town in Missouri, beating the establishment's brains out,"Gingrich said. "There's a pretty good history in Missouri of grassroots candidates being able to touch some deep belief that folks have that it's 'their seat.' It's not the seat owned by the banks, it's not the seat owned by billionaires, it's not the seat owned by special SuperPACs in Washington."

Gingrich dismissed comments Sunday by Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus who declared on TV that there was no way any RNC money would be used to help Akin.

The former speaker contended there will subtle back-tracking in the coming days. 

Gingrich observed that “a lot of people said a lot of things in the first 48 hours’’ after the controversy broke Aug. 19 over a local TV interview in which Akin said that victims of “legitimate rape’’ rarely get pregnant because their body can “shut the whole thing down."

Gingrich said that Akin obviously made a mistake, but asserted that Democrats often do the same -- and don't touch off such a furor. "If saying things that weren't very clever disqualified you from public office, Joe Biden would not be vice president,'' he said, touching off laughter from the audience of about 40 at the fundraiser.

(Gingrich asserted that President Barack Obama made far more serious verbal missteps by characterizing on TV the latest unrest in the Middle East, which resulted in the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, as " ' a bump in the road.'")

But with the polls showing the contest close, or with Akin ahead, Gingrich said, “I don’t see how any national Republican in good conscience, after tomorrow, has any choice except to say, the choice is the Republican nominee or Sen. McCaskill. I am for the Republican nominee.”

Tuesday is the last day that Akin could seek a court order to drop out. But the effective deadline was actually Saturday, the deadline for military and overseas ballots – which listed Akin as the GOP nominee -- to be sent out.

Akin reaffirmed that he has no plans to withdraw, telling Republicans that a number of other prominent GOP figures already have agreed to campaign on his behalf in the final weeks. He declined to give any names, saying the details were still being worked out.

Blunt may be softening stance on Akin

Gingrich asserted that GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's perceived strength in Missouri's polls also helps Akin because "the number of people who are going to cast a split ticket for McCaskill and Romney is tiny."

(Update) U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., appeared to be softening his opposition to Akin's continued candidacy in an interview with KMOX radio's Mark Reardon.

"I issued a statement on that some time ago along with other Republicans who served in the Senate from Missouri," Blunt said. "And our view was that Todd [Akin] was not the best candidate to win this race, after some things that happened after the primary. It wasn't just the last [rape] comment he made, but others about the school lunch program and just a whole series of things.

"But, we'll see. You know, he was nominee, he gets to decide whether to stay in or not, "Blunt continued. "And I think I'm not going to have much to say about that until we get to the final decision of what's going to happen on the ticket. And that's -- I don't have any reason to believe that Todd's going to make a different decision between now and 5 o'clock [Tuesday] but I've tried to stay out of it in all ways, both harmful and otherwise, to Todd." (End of update)

Meanwhile, McCaskill’s campaign posted a new web adand fired off releases accusing Akin of switching his stance on congressional earmarks to get campaign ad from a SuperPAC tied to influential U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C.

The web ad features a number of video clips of Akin over the past year defending the use of "earmarks."

“Earmarks’’ generally are defined as projects or spending privately inserted into bills by a member of Congress. Akin has been a defender of earmarks, while DeMint is among the senators – including McCaskill – who want to bar them.

"It’s shocking that Todd Akin’s willing to sell his support for an earmark ban, especially after defending the practice in campaign ads just two months ago,” said Erik Dorey, McCaskill for Missouri spokesman. “Akin’s decision to sell his support for an earmark ban is the kind of Washington politics that Missourians hate. After 12 years in Congress, it seems that Todd Akin’s gone Washington and this is just further proof that he’ll do anything it takes to go back."

Akin confirms talks with DeMint's staff over earmarks

Akin repeated his earlier denials of any deal with DeMint, but confirmed that there had been talks “on a staff level’’ to emphasize to DeMint that Akin also opposes any secret insertion of spending provisions into bills. Akin contends that allocations don’t qualify as earmarks if it’s clear which member of Congress sought the provision.

Did Akin get assurances that the DeMint-aligned SuperPAC, the Senate Conservatives Fund, would spend money on his behalf? “There’s nothing official,” the congressman replied.

Outside the fundraiser, which was open to the press, several dozen people representing labor or Planned Parenthood’s political arm protested with signs and shouts. 

The organizers included Jean Loemker of Kirkwood, the Bonhomme Township Democratic committeewoman. “This is my backyard and it really upset me that Newt Gingrich is here for Todd Akin,’’ she said.

Several of the Democratic protesters acknowledged that they will face challenges in getting McCaskill re-elected. But they added that Akin's rape comments, in particular, give Democrats hope that she can prevail.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.