The horrible image problems and extremely right wing positions of Republican candidate Todd Akin may just barely allow Claire McCaskill to hold onto her Senate seat in Missouri. According to Public Policy Polling McCaskill currently holds a six point lead. From PPP:

PPP’s newest poll of the Missouri Senate race finds Claire McCaskill expanding her lead to 6 points. She’s at 46% to 40% for Todd Akin and 9% for Libertarian Jonathan Dine. On our last poll of the race, in late August, McCaskill had led by only a single point.

Todd Akin’s image is not seeing any recovery even with six weeks having passed since his controversial comments. 33% of voters see him favorably to 55% with an unfavorable opinion. Those numbers are essentially unchanged from our last poll when he was at 33/56. Republicans still give him pretty high marks. 65% see him favorably to 23% with an unfavorable opinion, suggesting that they actually still like him and aren’t just voting for him grudgingly. But his reviews from independents (28/59) and Democrats (7/84) are pretty dreadful.

While this is a solid lead for McCaskill, there are some potential signs of weakness. To begin with, McCaskill would be losing the race badly if the Republicans had an even semi-competent candidate. Her net approval rating is still negative and by a 50 percent to 42 percent margin voters in the state want a Republican controlled Senate. It is only voters’ disdain for Akin that is keeping her in the lead.

The other big warning sign for McCaskill is that support for third party candidates normally tends to drop right before the election. If most of Jonathan Dine’s support ended up going to Akin it could close the gap. Fortunately, for McCaskill this is not a normal election. Akin has basically been renounced by large sections of his party and that should hurt his efforts to swing supporters away from the Libertarian candidate.

With many of the competitive Senate races moving in the Democrats’ direction the national Republican party is going to have a tough decision to make in Missouri. Is it better to let a possibly winnable race be lost or would supporting Akin simply do too much damage nationally among women to be worth taking the chance? So far the national Republican party has decided to stay out, but that could change.