How a Todd Akin Win Could Be a GOP Loss

It's hard to say which outcome of the Senate race would be most beneficial for the Republican Party.

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The test for national Republicans on the Missouri Senate race will not be determined by whether they convinced him to get out of the race. It will be determined by what they will do if Todd Akin manages to win the seat.

Akin, who infamously commented that victims of "legitimate rape" hardly ever get pregnant because women's bodies reject a pregnancy in such cases, has made no moves toward pulling out of the race. Today is the deadline for Akin to ask for a court order to get him off the ticket, and he's made it clear he's not going to do it. This is distressing to national Republicans, who had an excellent chance a couple of months ago of taking back control of the Senate—a plan predicated in part by the near-certainty of taking back the Missouri seat. The GOP still has a decent chance of taking the Senate back, despite recent setbacks in other states, so Akin's refusal to get out becomes even more important.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

But what would be worse for the GOP—if Akin loses, or if he wins? If he loses, but the race would not have been determinate to Senate control, that might be better for the Republicans. They've already pulled their financial support from Akin after his widely-derided comments. How can they work with him, then, if he is indeed elected? And if Akin, however science-challenged he is, indeed wins the seat (not far-fetched at all in conservative Missouri), does he not have the right to expect his party to listen to him, just as they would to any member of their caucus?

More troubling for Republicans would be the ongoing example of Akin as a prominent GOP elected official. The party is already damaged by a battle between the Tea Party, hardcore right, and the fiscal conservatives who dare to look for solutions in tandem with Democrats. Akin's very presence in the Senate—even if he's not there by virtue of national Republican assistance—would make him a constant lightening rod for the party, tainting others unnecessarily.

The Show-Me State could well elect Akin, who is only a handful of points behind Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. And it may well show the GOP in an unfavorable light.

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