Todd Akin, Superstar

So the big question in Politicsland this afternoon is how and why Todd Akin was able to convince himself to defy the entire GOP establishment of his state, the GOP presidential nominee, the major national campaign funders, and nearly the entire Right-Wing commentariat, and stay on the ballot in Missouri. Is he crazy? Is he bluffing?

I can’t answer those questions, but I can see how Akin might be strongly tempted in this direction. Very few if any of the people calling for him to step down supported his very recent primary candidacy; most either backed someone else or hoped he’d lose as the weakest of the potential Republican candidates. He represents a very self-conscious hard-core Christian Right segment of the GOP “base” in his state that undoubtedly feels underrepresented, undervalued, and perhaps even dissed. His candidacy is now indelibly connected with a debate over an issue–legalized abortion, and more generally, the need to rebuild America as a “Christian Nation”–about which he feels very passionately; it may very well be what made him run for office in the first place.

And thanks to the scorn and mockery he has now attracted, this relatively obscure congressman whom I’d bet half the pundits discussing his fate today had barely heard of before his primary win, is a National Superstar, the very embodiment of the Christian Right’s all-too-often abandoned determination to stand up to GOP pols who forever pay them lip service but rarely deliver the goods.

Is he worried about money? Maybe not. Recent political history is littered with relatively minor pols (Michele Bachmann and Allen West on the Right; Alan Grayson on the Left) who have built vast national small-donor fundraising networks on the heels of national notoriety and perceived victimization.

Is he worried about losing? Well, practically the first words out of his mouth before announcing he’d stay in the race on Mike Huckabee’s radio show today were to boast of a snap poll from PPP showing him still ahead of Claire McCaskill.

His family is reportedly running his campaign, so he didn’t have to worry about his staff quitting in disgust or fear of professional consequences. It’s too late for him to reassume his House seat. What does he have to lose, other than the opportunistic support of people who don’t know or like him and would probably have taken credit for his victory had he won without this latest incident?

And if he does win, he will enter the Senate next year not as some random wingnut dude from Missouri who was swept into office on a conservative wave in Missouri, but as Todd Akin, celebrity and Avenging Hero, who owes nothing to anyone other than his God, his family, and his loyal base.

Makes sense, when you look at it from his very unusual point of view.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.