As Tuesday’s deadline slipped by for embattled Rep. Todd Akin to pull out of the Missouri Senate race without penalty, campaign press secretary Ryan Hite told Newsmax in an exclusive interview that the decision came down to Show Me State voters urging their candidate to “stay strong.”
Speaking shortly after the 5 p.m. Central deadline, Hite said that Akin displayed a “sense of confidence” throughout the day even as prominent GOP leaders and organizations urged the Republican to give up his Senate bid following earlier comments that women's bodies can prevent pregnancies in case of "legitimate rape."
“The attitude behind it was: 'Look here’s the deal. We’ve got a bunch of people that are calling for me to step down and are calling for me to move on as the nominee and to give this position to the GOP to pick someone,’ but there are an incredible amount of people standing up and saying ‘look, we the Missouri primary voters pick you in this primary election to run against Claire McCaskill,” Hite explained.
“’You need to stand up and stay strong because you’re the one that we want to contrast against McCaskill's voting record,’” said Hite. “He felt very strongly about that and the support was very encouraging and that’s what the decision boiled down to for him.”
Prior to Akin’s controversial statement, which he has apologized for, the suburban St. Louis legislator had been seen as having a decent shot to help retake the Senate from Democrat control.
Akin had been leading McCaskill in recent days with an average 5-point spread. One poll had him 11 points ahead of McCaskill. The GOP needs to pick up four seats to take control of the Senate should President Obama win re-election, but only three should Romney win since his GOP vice president would break the tie.
Hite said he was not prepared to discuss how the congressman planned to make up the funding shortfall as prominent conservative organizations like Karl Rove's American Crossroads distanced themselves from Akin’s campaign.
“I know that there already have been — and probably will continue to be — quite a few people, not only at the grassroots level but probably higher up the chain that are going to step in and offer to come and to work with us and to help us,” declared Hite, adding, “You know party money isn’t the only money out there.”
He predicted that the campaign would see “quite a bit of a swell somewhere” and he noted that “quite a few fundraising petitions and different things” have already emerged on line to assist Akin.
“I’m sure that we’re going to start to see a lot of people step up to the plate because we did start to receive quite a bit of support, especially as the day began to draw towards the 5 p.m. mark,” he explained.
While clearly defying the establishment GOP, Hite declined to say whether Akin felt betrayed by his fellow Republicans who called upon him to step aside.
“I don’t have any idea, and I haven’t had any kind of public statement from him directly on that,” according to Hite, who said that his boss probably hasn’t spent much time worrying how he will govern if elected to the Senate without GOP support.
“I know that one thing that is a very prevailing thought in the congressman’s mind is that he has never really based his decisions or his votes off of where does this get me? How does this benefit me or what leadership and opportunities can come along? What he has done is taken a look, issue by issue, in his time in Congress and he’ll do the same in the Senate.”
Hite said that Akin would most likely make his governing decisions in the Senate in a similar manner.
“I haven’t heard him make any statements about how this could affect him in the Senate because of the contention we saw between the party and the congressman today,” said Hite. “But, I know in his mind that’s not something that he operates off of. He operates off of ‘what does my constituency say?’”
Hite said that the campaign received an “outpouring of support” in the form of calls and emails on Tuesday urging Akin to “stick this out.”
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