JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- A conservative fundraising group that had shied away from Missouri Rep. Todd Akin is now seriously considering whether to come to the embattled Republican's aid in his challenge to Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, an official with the group said Monday.
The Senate Conservatives Fund, which has raised more than $11 million for other Republican Senate candidates, could provide a much-needed financial boost for Akin, who is facing a Tuesday deadline on whether to stay in the race. Akin has vowed to remain in the contest. Appearing Monday at a Kirkwood, Mo., rally with former presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, Akin said there had been discussions with the super PAC but no official agreement.
The group previously had shied away from Akin, in part, because of his past use of spending earmarks to direct federal money to specific local projects. Earmarks now are banned in the Republican-controlled House, and Senate Republicans have voted not to use them.
In the primary, Akin aired an ad that touted a life saved by federal funding that some considered an earmark. But in a statement to The Associated Press last week, Akin said he backs a prohibition on earmarks in some circumstances.
"I support a ban on earmarks that are inserted in the dark of night or that are used by party leaders to buy support for their wasteful spending bills," Akin said in the written statement. "However, I want to make sure that Congress does its constitutional duty and retains the power of the purse rather than giving unelected bureaucrats all the power in Washington, D.C."
McCaskill, a vocal opponent of earmarks, suggested Akin had changed his position on earmarks in attempt to get campaign cash.
Akin's campaign, which was hosting a fundraiser Monday with former Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, is hoping to capitalize financially this week by demonstrating his resolve to remain in the race despite calls by some top Republicans that he quit after making inflammatory remarks about rape and pregnancy.
"There's no poll that shows this race is impossible," Gingrich said Monday. "I believe by mid-October all of them (Republican supporters) will be in."
Tuesday is the deadline for Missouri candidates to get a court order if they wish to drop out of the race. Akin has other plans for the day — a campaign bus tour.
Republican leaders are not expected to pitch in. But Akin could get some other help, from a political action committee built in part by tea party star Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina.
The Senate Conservatives Fund had remained neutral in Missouri's Republican Senate primary, which Akin won in early August. But since then, Akin has discussed and clarified his position on earmarks with the organization, one official said.
"Our understanding is he supports an earmark ban," Matt Hoskins, director of the Senate Conservatives Fund, said Monday.
Hoskins said the group is looking "very seriously" at supporting Akin, because it appears he will not drop out, still has a good shot at defeating McCaskill and generally aligns ideologically with the organization.
Akin has apologized repeatedly since a TV interview aired Aug. 19 in which he suggested that women's bodies have a natural defense against pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape." After that remark, Akin lost the financial support of the Republican National Committee, the Republican senators' political committee and the deep-pocketed Crossroads group affiliated with Republican strategist Karl Rove. That nixed millions of dollars of planned TV advertising.
Since then, Akin has raised nearly $600,000 through a small-dollar, online appeal that has cast his candidacy as an anti-establishment crusade against both Republican Party bosses and President Barack Obama's administration.
During the primary, Akin had been criticized by Republican rivals for supporting earmarks. Akin responded with a TV ad in which the wife of a military veteran said her husband's life was saved by a newly armored Humvee financed at Akin's initiative through "what some call earmarks."
The Senate Conservative Fund supports a ban or moratorium on earmarks that use legislation to direct a specific amount of money for a specific purpose in a certain state or congressional district.
Akin's campaign said Friday that his position on earmarks "is not in conflict with" the ban on earmarks sought by DeMint, who helped build the Senate Conservatives Fund into a formidable fundraising organization for its favored candidates. McCaskill has co-sponsored that legislation with DeMint and her vocal opposition to earmarks has often put her at odds with her own party's leadership.
McCaskill's campaign suggested that Akin has shifted his views on earmarks in hopes of getting money for his Senate campaign.
"What kind of Washington politician runs an ad defending earmarks in the primary, then two months later, turns around and changes his position on a dime, for a dime? This is exactly the kind of transactional politics that makes people sick," said McCaskill spokesman Caitlin Legacki.
Salter reporter from Kirkwood, Mo.