Missouri Rep. Todd Akin had until 5:00 p.m. Tuesday to drop out of Missouri's U.S. Senate race and his opponent, Sen. Claire McCaskill, barely made it to 5:01 p.m. before launching her first attack ad against him.
In the ad, McCaskill draws attention to a series of statements Akin made this year about how he "didn't like" Social Security, believed "Medicare was unconstitutional," and wanted to eliminate both the minimum wage and federal student loans.
The ad ends with the game-changing comment Akin made in August that attracted national attention.
"On August 16, he said only some rapes are legitimate," the ad's narrator says. "What will he say next?"
McCaskill had waited in the wings for more than a month, staying away from harsh attacks of Akin's comments, sources say, in an effort to keep a candidate her campaign deems beatable in the race. Akin's Republican allies, on the other hand, distanced themselves immediately and called for him to leave the race so they could replace him with a less embattled candidate.
But even they are on their way back.
The Missouri Republican Party, which has kept quiet over the last four weeks, fired off a statement Tuesday in support of Akin.
"Claire McCaskill is far too liberal for Missouri—voting with Barack Obama 95 percent of the time since 2010 and supporting every major piece of his reckless agenda," said David Cole, chairman of the Missouri Republican Party. "We are confident that Todd will defeat McCaskill in November, and the Missouri Republican Party will do everything we can to assist in his efforts."
South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint's super PAC, Senate Conservatives Action, is also toying with the idea of jumping on the Akin bandwagon.
Former Republican presidential nominees Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich both endorsed Akin this week. And Gingrich stumped for him Monday in Missouri, stating that if members of the Republican establishment are smart, they will start coming out of the woodwork to support Akin in his quest for the Senate.
"Everyone out there expects [McCaskill] to dump $10 [million] or $12 million in negative ads. We are working hard to raise money," Gingrich says. "I think we will see the RNC and the Senate committee and others re-engage, because if you are trying to unseat Harry Reid, it is irrational to write off Missouri."
Gingrich says he's been frustrated with the way Republicans have handled the Akin gaffe.
"I was angry that so many people in the monied wing of the party felt like they could go out and say to a legitimately elected nominee of our party that the votes in Missouri don't count, and they ought to dictate what should happen."