In yesterday’s Missouri primary, Rep. Todd Akin managed to narrowly win his party’s Senate nomination with 36 percent of the vote. He beat out both self-funded businessman John Brunner, who got 30 percent, and former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman, who got 29 percent, for the chance to take on incumbent Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill.
Akin was considered the most conservative of the nominees and the weakest general election candidate. The McCaskill team even took the unusual step of running ads “against” Akin during he primary which labeled him the true conservative. While the message of the ads should technically hurt Akin in the general it seems the bigger point of the ads run right before the primary was to help Akin with conservatives voters.
Polling before the primary found that of the three Republican candidates, McCaskill did the best against Akin. A Mason-Dixon poll from last month found that McCaskill trailing Brunner by 11 points, trailing Steelman by 8 points, but only losing to Akin by five points. While having Akin win should improve McCaskill chances, she still has a very difficult uphill battle.
Last night was a victory for Akin and a victory for conservative evangelical voters. We will have to wait until November, though, to find out if it was also an indirect victory for Democrats or a case of being careful what you wish for.
At the very least, Akin’s victory is another sign of the significant ideological change taking place within the Republican Party. In just this cycle the stanch conservative candidates have racked up an impress series of victories in big statewide primaries. Just last week, Ted Cruz won the run off in the Texas Senate primary, and earlier this year Richard Mourdock managed to defeat incumbent Sen. Dick Lugar to secure the GOP senate nomination in Indiana.