Akin's Campaign Regroups After Exodus

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Akin's Campaign Regroups After Exodus
Will a new leader jump start Todd Akin's campaign?
The campaign manager and two other top aides recently left Todd Akin's Senate campaign team. The shake-up seems to be a product of a stumbling operation for a candidate who fumbled away his status as presumed Republican front-runner to challenge vulnerable Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill.

Campaign manager Karl Hansen, finance director Heather Grote and general consultant Chris LaCivita each exited the campaign in December, the National Journal reported on Tuesday. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has since reported that Akin's son, Perry Akin, will take over as campaign manager. Perhaps a big change like this will give Akin the fresh start he needs.

It's unclear who broke up with whom. What is clear is that Akin's campaign stumbled out of the gates months ago and hasn't yet been able to get back on it's feet.

In June, Akin said in a radio interview that "at the heart of Liberalism is a hatred of God." In September, he questioned the constitutionality of medicare, which Americans overwhelmingly support. And then in November, his staff mistakenly announced an endorsement from Rep. Paul Ryan after Ryan simply praised Akin for his conservative principles.

Fortunately for Akin, his opponents in the GOP primary haven't fully capitalized on his struggles.

Sarah Steelman has emerged as the strongest candidate so far by attacking Akin for wanting to privatize medicare and opposing an extension of the payroll tax cut-- two stances that go with party-line but are unpopular among constituents. Back in May, polls showed Akin with a slim lead over Steelman. But Steelman sprinted ahead over the summer. The most recent poll, conducted in September by Public Policy Polling, showed her up 11 points on Akin, 40 to 29, with Brunner at 6 percent and 26 percent undecided. 

The problem is that she doesn't have much fundraising money to show for all this. As of October Steelman had raised just $100,000. She recently lent her campaign $400,000 out of pocket. By contrast, Akin had $1.25 million in his war chest as of October and McCaskill raised more than $1 million in the 2011 third quarter alone.

Then there's businessman John Brunner, who splashed into the race with solid expectations and deep pockets, but then, it seems, may have realized he doesn't know how to swim these political waters. Less than a month after announcing his candidacy, word got out that Brunner's health care product company Vi-Jon had just been hit with a round of lay-offs. So he distanced himself from the company, noting that he hasn't been a part of the day-to-day operations since 2009, as he currently holds the mostly ceremonial position of chairman emeritus of Vi-Jon's board. This image of course is a wild contrast from the one in his campaign ad, where John the Job Creator, in hard hat and safety goggles, inspects hand sanitizer bottles.

Worse for him, all this has been heightened because he has failed to articulate clear policy proposals that distinguish him from his opponents. Instead it's been vague regurgitation like "balanced budget, less red tape, and more jobs."
Aggravating this vulnerability, less than two weeks after Brunner issued a statement calling for a series of debates with his primary opponents, he declined to participate in a KTRS radio debate scheduled for January 10. Akin and Steelman will take part.

For more on St. Louis politics, boxing, hip-hop and miscellaneous social issues, follow @albertsamaha on Twitter.

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