Calling Missouri "a must win state" for Republicans this year, Sarah Palin is pushing for a third party candidate to enter the Senate race if embattled GOP nominee Todd Akin continues to insist on staying in.
"You got to know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em," Palin said of Akin, describing the Missouri congressman as a principled, pro-life candidate who now has no chance of beating incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill because of his controversial comments about rape.
Palin told Fox News' Greta Van Susteren Tuesday night that her pick to replace Akin would be former Missouri State Treasurer Sarah Steelman, the candidate she backed in the Republican primary against him.
She suggested Steelman could still enter the race as a third party candidate, running on the slogan she introduced in the primary, "The status quo has got to go."
"I won't gloat about it, but I was right," the former Alaska governor said, referring to her backing of Steelman over Akin. "And Sarah Steelman's supporters and campaign staff, we were all right in knowing that Sarah Steelman is the right person for the job to represent Missouri and to allow common-sense conservatives to take back the Senate."
Palin said she wouldn't "pile on Todd Akin" for "standing on principle" because he does not want to be perceived as a quitter. But she added that he has to go, "bless his heart," because he's lost the support of Republican "big-wigs," and the party's "core voters."
"When that support is gone, that would be needed in order to beat Claire McCaskill, help take back the Senate . . . that's when you have to use discernment and know when to fold them," she said.
Palin said she believes the "best way" to beat McCaskill now is to promote Steelman as a third party challenger who can help Republicans "clean up this mess that's been created" by Akin's bizarre comments on what he called "legitimate rape."
"Again, without trying to pile on Todd Akin and what he's going through right now, maybe it is a third party run of Sarah Steelman that I can get behind," Palin told Van Susteren.
"And, granted, 'the status quo has got to go' would be an odd name for a third party, but we'll coin it, adopt it, run with it, if that's what it takes in order to get a commonsense, constitutional, happens to be pro-life woman in Missouri, to clean up this mess that's been created."
"We do have an opportunity, even though Todd Akin has said that he's not going to drop out," Palin said, adding that it was time for the party to "close that chapter" on Akin and "hand the mantle to someone else."
"It's doable, it's winnable, Missouri is," she continued. "And that leads to winning the Senate."
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