Honest Question about Todd Akin
August 27th, 2012

I agree with nearly all of the analysis which says that Todd Akin should drop out of his Missouri senate race: Akin is likely to lose; his presence could drag down other Republicans on the ticket; that seat should be winnable for a competent candidate; etc.

The only bit I don’t agree with is the notion that Akin should get out for his own good. James Taranto, for example, says that Akin is probably getting bad advice from people such as Mike Huckabee.

Sure, it would be better for the GOP, Mitt Romney, and all of America for Akin to get out of the race. But from Akin’s perspective, would dropping out be good for Todd Akin?

There are three possible outcomes:

(1) Akin drops out like everyone wants him to.

(2) Akin stays in and loses.

(3) Akin stays in and wins.

Under scenario #1, it’s not clear what Akin gets out of the deal. I suppose he avoids the calumny of #2, but he’s so radioactive it’s not like the Missouri GOP is ever going to do him a favor down the line. If he drops out, his politically career is over.

Under #2, his political career is also over. Maybe there’s more bitterness on the part of his fellow Republicans. But at the end of the day, there’s not much less than zero.

Which leaves us with #3. Let’s say the chances of Akin winning are really, really short. Maybe 1-in-10 or 1-in-20. Well if he somehow does win, all of a sudden he becomes basically a Republican in good standing again. After all, he’ll be a United States senator, with quite a lot of power, and the GOP will need his vote. Look how Lisa Murkowski was welcomed back inside the tent after she defied the party by pursuing a write-in campaign against the GOP. Once you win, the leverage completely shifts–the party needs you as much as you need it.

So if you’re Akin, maybe it makes sense to take the really, really long shot because while the odds are terrible, the payoff is big and the practical difference between losing and leaving is negligible.

Again, none of this is to argue that Akin should stay in the race. (If I were his consigliere I’d tell him that there are worse things than failing at electoral politics.) It’s only to suggest that doing so may not be the product of bad advice or a misunderstanding of his strategic options.

  1. Galley Friend J.E. August 27, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    Jack Ryan should’ve stayed in the 2004 Illinois senate race. Oh, if only he had known then who would win that race and what it would mean for the country, he’d have remained and endured the humiliations.

    Akin can and should see what can happen if he stays: disaster. Al Franken was who gave us Obamacare.

    Murkowski is a different story. She acted in her own self-interest, of course, and when the gamble paid off, she was embraced b/c she wasn’t contagious.

    Akin, on the other hand, is a leper. His odds of winning are lotto sized, but even if he defies them and pulls it out, he’ll be asking the party to have his germs rub off on them. Bad form.

    What he said wasn’t macaca. It was, no matter how nuanced he may have intended it, an exercise in suicide. Which he’s only compounding.

    I’d like to play him the movie “Lifeboat” and tell him, “Dude, you’re William Bendix. Now go.”

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  3. Gabriel August 27, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    Reminds me of Rodney Stark’s analysis of why so many bishops accepted martyrdom during the Diocletian persecution, specifically, apostasy was a pretty crappy option too for someone whose entire social power and prestige was specific to the church.

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  5. Nedward August 27, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    From what I gather he has no resume besides post-Vietnam military deployment and Missouri elected office, the sort of life deficiency that has never stopped the other 534 benchwarmers. What’s he gonna do, go back to selling computers?

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  7. Kevin August 27, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    I’m all for honest politics…. but can’t we have some anonymous donor completely unprovoked pull a scene out of Thank you for Smoking where Akin is the Marlboro Man and someone shows up with a briefcase full of cash?

    This isn’t a bribe to get out. It’s a gift from your friends at the RNC. Hopefully when you take the money, you’ll remember not to oppose their interests and drop out.

    The RNC has to have some dedicated lobbyist with flexible morals on its payroll.

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  9. Kevin August 27, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtzyCOiUmF8 that explains it best.

    So RNC, where is your Nick Naylor?

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  11. Dave S. August 28, 2012 at 11:41 am

    I agree that this is a “what do I have to lose?” scenario. Plus, I don’t think it’s impossible for him to win.

    The groundswell of support for Akin is a reflection of the (generally) short shrift given to social conservatives by the GOP in exchange for votes. Perhaps the SCs are tired of being taken for granted and this is a little pushback.

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  13. Judith August 28, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    I was taught to be skeptical of statements that start out, “I’m all for X, but,” BUT, I agree with Kevin: I’m all for honest politics, but where is Nick Naylor when we need him?