Todd Akin's decision to stay in the Missouri Senate race following his controversial "legitimate rape" comments this week could have an impact on other races in the swing state.
While Mitt Romney and Gov. Jay Nixon (D) are both likely winners in Missouri, competitive statewide races for lieutenant governor and secretary of state could be decided based on voter reaction to Akin's placement on the GOP ticket. Missouri political experts told The Huffington Post that Akin's continued campaign could result in a 1 to 3 point swing in the down ballot races, enough to decide a winner.
"Akin's gaffe could have somewhat of an effect on the down ballot," Saint Louis University political science professor Kenneth Warren told HuffPost. "That kind of thing could put people off of voting Republican."
Akin's decision has resulted in several groups, including the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Tea Party, claiming they will withhold funds to help Akin in his race against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D). Former state Rep. Jason Grill (D-Parkville), now a political analyst for several state and national media outlets, said that it is similar to 2010, when national Democratic groups did not fund Secretary of State Robin Carnahan's (D) Senate race against Republican Roy Blunt.
"That did have an effect on the rest of the ticket and other races," Grill said of 2010. "There were no ads."
The 2010 race also featured a race for state auditor where Democratic incumbent Susan Montee lost along with several other Democratic losses in the state legislature. Grill, too, lost his legislative seat in the 2010 race.
The 2012 Missouri ballot includes the lieutenant governor's race between Montee and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder (R), who was caught up in a stripper scandal last year, and the secretary of state's race between state Rep. Jason Kander (D-Kansas City) and state Rep. Shane Schoeller (R-Willard). There's also a competitive race for attorney general between Democratic incumbent Chris Koster and Republican challenger Ed Martin. In the governor's race, Nixon has maintained a consistant lead over Republican Dave Spence.
At least one Missouri political expert said he does not know if Akin will have that much of an impact on the state. David Webber, a political science professor at the University of Missouri, said that while he predicts a 2 to 5 percent swing against Akin in his race, he does not know how much Kinder and Schoeller will be impacted, citing the name recognition both have, particuarly Kinder as a two-term lieutenant governor.
"I don't think it will have as much of an impact as people think," Webber said. "If you are a Republican, it is a legitimate fear."
While the Akin-McCaskill race was seen as competitive -- Akin mostly maintained the lead -- a Rasmussen poll released Thursday shows McCaskill with a 10 point.
Former state Sen. Jeff Smith (D-St. Louis), now a political science professor at The New School in New York City, said most of Missouri's Republicans have avoided addressing Akin's comments. He said Republicans could likely face backlash from women in the suburbs of St. Louis, who have tended to be more Democratic in recent races. Smith noted many of these voters are pro-choice but have had a history of also voting Republican, which he said could easily change in response to Akin.
"They are long troubled by a 25-year GOP trend of intolerance towards gays and minorities and reproductive freedom," Smith said.
Smith said that if the Akin story continues to dominate Missouri politics for several weeks it can continue to mobilize suburban women against Republican candidates in the lower races.
"It could have a enough of an impact on people," Smith said.
Smith, Warren and Grill agreed Akin's presence on the ticket is unlikely to flip the state's Republican-dominated legislature. While Democrats may pick up a few seats, Republican-heavy districts will probably keep the legislature in GOP hands.
Warren said that he wants to see if Kander, Montee and Koster decide to tie Akin closely to Akin's comments. He said the biggest aspect of the decision is voters finding out how conservative Akin is on policy issues.
"How many Missourians knew how right wing Akin is?" Warren said. "Now people know this guy is extremely right wing fiscally and socially -- basically like an 18th century politician."
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