The initial uproar over Missouri Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin over his "legitimate rape" comments may have momentarily subsided long enough for him to hit the campaign trail and focus on his now seemingly uphill bid to win what was once thought to be a "safe" Republican seat. Now a new Citizen's United Poll shows Akin leading Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill by almost five points.
The poll, conducted by Wenzel Strategies, also shows Mitt Romney leading President Obama by 20 points in the Show Me State, but some political scientists are wary of these numbers, saying those numbers are too inflated.
"I don't buy that poll," University of Virginia Center for Politics political analyst Kyle Kondik told The Christian Post. "For one thing, if Akin is 15 points behind Romney, then that's not good."
The RealClear Politics average in Missouri show Romney leading Obama by 7.3 percent and McCaskill up over Akin by 5.3 percent – a far cry from the results of the latest Citizens United survey. In fact, Akin's biggest lead in early August and prior to his comments was only in the 8 percent range.
"Will Romney win in Missouri? Sure he will," says Kondik, but I don't believe it will be by 20 points. Based on what we see, I believe McCaskill is favored only because of Akin's 'foot-in-mouth' comments and that he's running a poor campaign. But we're in a pretty polarized era and there won't be a lot of ticket splitters, which she'll need if she's going to win."
After meeting with key evangelicals – many of whom are members of the Council for National Policy – in Tampa just prior to the Republican convention, Akin said he was committed to the race and would stay the course even though the Republican Senatorial Committee and other GOP funders such as Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS said they were pulling their financial resources out of the race, leaving Akin on his own. It is not clear if they and similar groups will eventually send money Akin's way but for now that doesn't appear to be the case.
Akin's comments may have landed him in hot water, but nonetheless, he's counting on Missouri's growing conservative base to stick with him through Election Day.
At a recent campaign event just south of Springfield, Mo., Akin told a crowd of about 150 supporters that there remained clear differences between he and McCaskill, the greatest being her support for President Obama's Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
"We are choosing the future of America," Akin said to cheers, citing the deficit, higher gas prices, tax increases and unemployment – "you know that's a phony baloney number anyway because after looking for work for a year they take you off the list."
Akin, also known for marching to the beat of a different drum, compares himself to former President Ronald Reagan on the issues of gun rights and abortion – two issues that have the potential to move lots of votes – and reminding the crowd that McCaskill is opposed to both.
Yet the question remains, will that be enough to defeat McCaskill in November?
"I think McCaskill is up, but it's not a slam dunk," said Kondik. "But as I've said, even though I think Akin is a bad candidate, that doesn't make McCaskill a stronger candidate. It will be an election worth watching."
The Wenzel Poll was conducted Sept. 10-11 and included 850 respondents who are likely voters. Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed were 50 years of age or older.