Byron York –
TAMPA — It’s an understatement to say Republicans are worried about losing the Senate race in Missouri. Amid the Todd Akin controversy, they’re terrified by the prospect of losing a state they previously thought they could win — and thus falling a single seat short of winning control of the Senate.
Now, many of them view Mike Huckabee as the key player in the Akin situation. The former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate has supported Akin all along and has prominently refused to join in the Republican chorus — which includes virtually every office holder, former office holder, political operatives and big-name radio hosts — calling for Akin to get out of the race. If Huckabee told Akin it’s time to leave, many Republicans believe, then Akin would go.
Huckabee says he has no such powers. Contrary to popular assumption, the two men aren’t really talking, Huckabee says. The last conversation they had was last Tuesday, on Huckabee’s radio show, and the only other time they’ve talked during the controversy was also on radio. “I’ve had two conversations with him, both of which were on the air,” Huckabee says. The two men haven’t had a private conversation about the issue.
But what about his influence? “Everybody thinks I’m like the Phantom of the Opera here,” Huckabee says, holding out his hands as if to play the organ. “No, I just don’t like to see guys who are on my side of things get the daylights whacked out of them by other people who are on my side.”
Republicans of all varieties, from strategists to top officials, have called Huckabee to try to change his mind on Akin. So far, it hasn’t worked. It’s gotten to the point where Republicans are treating Huckabee with kid gloves almost as much as Akin. For example, when Sen. John Cornyn, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, called Huckabee recently, he took care not to push. “To his credit, he did not call and have a conversation with me saying, you’ve got to get Todd Akin out,” says Huckabee. “We had a very honest conversation between two people who like each other…and I don’t have a problem with the Senatorial Committee deciding the race is not one they want to invest in.”