Fighting back. A few weeks ago Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri, a Republican, made some comments about rape and abortion that looked like it might kill his chances for election to the U.S. Senate. He went from being the front-runner to being 10 points down in the polls. But Akin is fighting his way back. One poll now has him down by a single percentage point, within the margin of error. The Real Clear Politics average of the most recent polls has him 5.3 points down—and that’s despite the fact the mainstream Republican Party essentially abandoned him. Super PAC Crossroads GPS, for example, stopped spending money on Akin’s behalf. It’s leader Karl Rove said he would no longer “throw good money after bad” in the Akin race. If Akin wins, or comes within a percentage point or two, without GOP backing, the result will embolden the Tea Party and social conservative wing of the Republican Party.
Going down. In what is likely to be another defeat for GOP moderates, former Republican Rep. Heather Wilson finds herself 9 points down to Democrat Martin Heinrich in the U.S. Senate race in New Mexico. Wilson is an Air Force Academy graduate and is strongly conservative on defense issues, but she is more moderate on social issues. The National Republican Senatorial Committee had planned to spend $3 million for her campaign, but it recently pulled the plug on its ad buys. In fairness to Wilson, and as a counter-argument to my thesis that conservative and not moderate Republicans are the way for the GOP to win, I note that in 2008 conservative Steve Pearce lost by 20 points in the U.S. Senate race there. But the political environment in New Mexico has shifted. In 2010 a solid conservative, Susana Martinez, was elected governor. The bottom line: New Mexico will likely end up being an important lost opportunity for the Republican Party because it was afraid to put its most conservative foot forward.
Romney redux. Mitt Romney’s campaign hasn’t had a good week. It’s becoming clear that a one-note “it’s the economy, stupid” strategy is not working. According to conservative activist Gary Bauer, the Romney campaign is going to open up a bit: “If reports are true that Romney is going to broaden the debate beyond the economy, we welcome this change because it opens up the opportunity to expose Obama’s radicalism across the board, especially on values issues. Obama’s foreign policy is a disaster because he is naïve. He keeps reaching out to our enemies while isolating our allies. And he’s also an extremist on social issues like the meaning of marriage and the sanctity of life too.” Bauer’s bottom line: “The economy has been bad for more than three years now. Everybody knows that, yet the race is still tied. Clearly a singular focus on the economy isn’t the winning strategy that some had assumed.”
Remembering Rich. Musician, songwriter, and activist Rich Mullins died 15 years ago today. Mullins was best known for his worship hit “Awesome God,” but his legacy is much more complex than this one song. He was a virtuoso on the hammer dulcimer and a contrarian voice in what had become a materialistic Christian music scene. At the time of his death, in a car accident, he was living in a hogan in New Mexico, teaching Navajo children. He turned the financial proceeds of his music career over to his church, which paid Mullins a modest salary and gave the rest to charity. Mullins influenced Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Jars of Clay, Chris Rice—the list goes on.