Karl Rove called Missouri Rep. Todd Akin's comments about rape and pregnancy "so bad, so deplorable, so out of touch that there's no way to recover." But Akin's made it clear that he's not walking away from his U.S. Senate campaign. Despite calls from everyone from presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney to Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts to abandon the fight, Akin's gone rogue. [Check out U.S. News Weekly: an insider's guide to politics and policy.]
Republican money giant Crossroads GPS won't fund him, and as long as he sticks it out, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is holding its $5 million for the Missouri race hostage.
"His ability to control the message of the campaign has been lost," says GOP strategist Ron Bonjean. "If the Republicans thought there was a chance he could win, they wouldn't have pulled his ad time."
So what can Akin do?
Republican and Democratic strategists alike aren't placing bets on Akin, but they do have some advice. First of all, they say, stop hiding.
Politico reported Wednesday that Akin has "been in a bunker. Holed up at his political consultant Rex Esass's office in Ohio."
Matt Mackowiak, a GOP strategist, points out that if Akin is so set on running for the Senate, he has to get out on the ground and start connecting with voters again.
"Come back to the state you are running in," Mackowiak says. "When you are in these circumstances, the immediate, knee-jerk response is to buckle down, but if you act like there is a problem, you have a problem. If you are going to stay in, you have to be on the ground showcasing your family, building a women's coalition."
Advisers close to the campaign should be scheduling media interviews with Akin's daughters and his wife, strategists suggest. It's the trick that presidential candidates Romney and Rick Santorum both used in the primary to bolster their position with women.
Strategists say if you are not doing well with women, place your closest female allies front and center on the campaign trail.
Next, advisers say, Akin has to stop floundering on his comment, apologize once and for all, and move on. [Meet Rex Elsass, The influential GOP Consultant Keeping Todd Akin in the Race.]
"He needs to go on Missouri TV and say, 'I am running for Senate. Tell me what you think I should do," says Lanny Davis, a Democratic crisis management consultant. "He has to be honest and say, 'I still believe that a rape victim should have a baby, but do you forgive my stupid words?"
After that, campaign strategists warn, Akin should stay quiet on social issues.
"Pivot to something else," says Mackowiak. "I don't think women are voting specifically on these social issues, but when a politician stirs it up, it makes women stop and say, 'I am not sure if this person belongs in the race.' "
Peverill Squire, a political science professor at the University of Missouri, says Akin needs to refocus on attacking his opponent Claire McCaskill's close ties to President Obama and any failed policies she's embraced in the past.
"Akin's best hope is for the campaign to return to a focus on jobs and the economy," Squire says. "Running a race focused primarily on social issues, as Akin has suggested, will not be enough to win in November because too many suburban Republicans, particularly women, are likely to be turned off by strident appeals."
Akin's other major obstacle is cash. With just over $500,000 on hand as of mid-July, Akin has a fraction of the cash McCaskill is holding onto. Without help from outside groups, the disadvantage could spell the end for Akin.
Strategists advise Akin to reach out to major pro-life donors, who may not be able to keep up with McCaskill's over the long haul but could provide some cushion as Akin attempts to bounce back.
"Find a way to capitalize on the mistake," Mackowiak says. "For everyone you are making mad, you are resonating with someone else."
Already, Akin's won over the support of major pro-life groups like the Family Research Council. And in his own backyard, Missouri Right to Life was one of the first groups to come to his defense.
"Missouri Right to Life supports Congressman Akin's defense of the life an innocent, unborn child conceived by rape," said the group's president, Pam Fichter.