With the final deadline for Todd Akin to attempt to have his name removed from the Missouri Senate ballot fast approaching, it will be interesting to see which of the Republicans who disowned him after last month’s disastrous “legitimate rape” comments re-embrace Akin once there is officially no way to get him out of the race.
The calls from the conservative pundit class for Akin to drop out have always been incredibly cynical, with many admitting that they wanted Akin out because of fear he would cost the party a seat that it would otherwise win, and potentially the Senate, and not because of any objection to what he said. None have seemed more calculated—while at the same time pretending to be principled—than Dana Loesch. The CNN contributor and Breitbart editor was one of Akin’s earliest and fiercest defenders, but ultimately threw him under the bus just like the rest of the right-wing commentariat. I was captivated by Loesch’s response to L’Affaire Akin in the days after the gaffe, because it was fascinating to watch her position on Akin slowly evolve.
Loesch’s Twitter account was like a real-time barometer of Akin’s falling position within the party, but appearing on a weird 24-hour delay. Since she came out so strongly on the side that Akin’s gaffe was being overblown by liberals when the story first broke, Loesch would have looked foolish had she abandoned Akin as quickly as the rest of the right did. But Loesch, a Missourian herself, ultimately did come around to “withdrawing her support” for Todd Akin. And now, with four days to go until Tuesday’s deadline to ask to be removed from the ballot, it appears as though Loesch is one of the first on the right to welcome him back into the fold.
After I snarkily noted this fact on Twitter, Loesch and I got in a little tiff in which she ultimately concluded that I was an “illiterate” moron and potentially “high” on drugs. I wanted to look back at Loesch’s old Akin Tweets to confirm that my recollections had not been clouded since August, by my own intellectual failings or anything else. I found that they had not been.
She then said that she wasn’t defending Akin’s remarks. Rather, she was “defending moronic overreactions.” That Akin was still the better candidate than Claire McCaskill and still deserved to win the Missouri Senate seat was her only point, and if you thought that she sounded like she was dismissing the significance of his remarks, then that was just you being a “less intelligent” person.
She also sent another Tweet that was in no way a defense of Akin, just an observation about how well he handled the fallout from the rape situation:
Loesch’s non-defense-defense of Akin continued for the next 24 hours or so. By then, there was already a slow build of Republican establishment figures giving Akin a not-so gentle nudge toward the exit door. Akin had to decide by the end of that Tuesday whether or not he would stay in the race, or it would be significantly more difficult for him to eventually get his name off of the ballot. Many in the GOP seemed like they had already decided that they wanted him to get out.
By the end of that Monday, meanwhile, said whisper campaign against Akin on the right had reached a fever pitch, with Red State blogger and CNN contributor Erik Erickson reporting that Todd Akin would drop out of the race. Moments later, Akin reiterated that he was staying in the race, but it was then obvious that hidden forces in the party, specifically unnamed “consultants,” wanted him out ASAP.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee said it would not spend money on the Missouri Senate race unless Akin dropped out, and the Karl Rove-affiliated Super PAC American Crossroads also pulled money from the race. At that point, the writing seemed to be on the wall and by Monday evening, Loesch started her pivot away from team-Akin with a series of Tweets wondering what might happen if Akin did decide to leave.
By Tuesday, Akin had lost the support of the NRSC, American Crossroads, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and pretty much the entire GOP establishment for making, in Loesch’s words, “not the best statement.” Sean Hannity had Akin on his radio show and all but groveled for him to quit the race.
Loesch, meanwhile, continued her pivot, Tweeting this on Tuesday morning:
At this point, Loesch also had Akin on her radio program and asked him some very tough questions about whether or not he could survive without the support of the GOP establishment and whether or not he was then being supported financially by the McCaskill campaign. “Frankly, I look at the Senate race and I’m worried for you. I’m worried for what would happen, you know, if this 5 p.m. deadline passes and you go forward,” she told Akin. “I’m worried that the Republican Party would give up on this race. I’m worried that you would have trouble fundraising grassroots, or fundraising online. What do you say to someone like me, who’s very hesitant and doesn’t know where they fall right now?”
Finally, with one hour and 15 minutes left in Akin’s deadline to withdraw without difficulty and after Akin rejected Romney’s calls to quit the race, Loesch joined the chorus of right-wing pundits saying it would be better for Republicans for Akin to leave the race and that he should do what was right for the party:
On Wednesday night, she left all doubt, Retweeting neocon blogger Donald Douglas’s support of her bravery in throwing Akin under the bus:
Later that week, when Akin held a press conference that some thought might be him finally deciding to drop out, even though the deadline for him to do it easily had passed, and he instead again announced that he was staying in the race, Loesch’s one-word Tweet response was this:
If there was still any doubt as to where Loesch stood, she cleared it up when one week later she chastised Mike Huckabee for suggesting that anyone who supported Akin’s ouster was on the wrong side of a biblical divide. Also, the establishment forces that had tried so desperately to get Akin out of the race were now, in Loesch’s eyes, “Akin dissenters” and she was among that group of rebels:
Okay, that was all last month, but it seemed definitive enough. Loesch, who for 24 hours thought Akin’s comments were really no big deal and congratulated him on his initial response to them, now believed that Akin had torpedoed his party’s chances of winning the seat and that he should drop out of the race. She was officially an “Akin dissenter.”
That was until yesterday, when she Retweeted this message from @ProLifePolitics blogger Andrew Bair with one word: “yep.”
The article she and Bair linked to was a story from St. Louis Today with the headline “Newt Gingrich: Akin won ballot spot in `fair fight,' GOP should back him.” In addition to throwing his verbal support behind Akin, Gingrich has also become the highest profile Republican to start fundraising for him again.
On Thursday, I noted that Loesch had seemingly changed positions once again, Tweeting “The flip-flop-flip-back is complete!!! Beautifully executed.” She then started Tweeting at me about my comment, and I explained that I was talking about her multiple positions on whether Akin should stay in the race and asked her to clarify her current stance.
This was her response:
When I Tweeted back with links to her multiple positions and statements that she did want him out, she said “All you did was prove that you're illiterate and link to what I said I said. Idiot.”
My response was to reiterate the point:
And our exchange closed on this lovely note.
After all that, I’m still not sure whether Dana Loesch has yet fully recommitted her support to Todd Akin, but I do know that I bug her. It’s also clear that she thinks the GOP should back Akin again, and I’m guessing that if she hasn’t made her own support official yet, she will soon. Once we reach Tuesday’s final deadline for Akin to get his name off of the ballot, don’t expect her to be the last one to change her mind on the subject.
This is a guest post from Slate’s social media editor.