From NBC’s First Read

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Brooke Brower.


*** The chickens may have come home to roost: As the political world waits and sees if Rep. Todd Akin (R) drops out of Missouris Senate contest by this afternoons deadline, heres a question for us to ponder: How did we get here? How is the GOP on the verge of losing a very winnable Senate race if Akin remains in it? And why is the party pressuring him to drop out? Much of it comes down to the 2009-2010 cycle, when Republican leaders — National Republican Senatorial Committee head John Cornyn and Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell — took so much heat for backing establishment candidates over Tea Party insurgents like Marco Rubio and Rand Paul. The base of the party sent this unmistakable message to GOP leaders: Stay out of our primaries or get on board of the most conservative candidate. Yes, both Rubio and Paul ended up winning (as did Republicans across the board in 2010), but others lost, including Sharron Angle, Ken Buck, and Christine ODonnell. So Republican leaders — the very folks who could have ensured that Missouri Republicans ended up with their most electable candidate (and no one ever thought it was Akin) — chickened out, and the chickens have come home to roost. And heres the ultimate question for Republicans: Can you always pick the most conservative candidate and still win races, especially in blue or purple states? Indeed, Republicans may not control the U.S. Senate in 2013 because they have been unable to put even a thumb on the scale for its preferred candidates.

*** Why Akin probably doesnt exit today or tomorrow: As much of the party is pressuring him to exit the race, Akin is up with a new TV ad asking for forgiveness. “Rape is an evil act,” he says to the camera. “I used the wrong words in the wrong way. And for that I apologize. As the father of two daughters, I want tough justice for predators. I have a compassionate heart for the victims of sexual assault. And I pray for them… The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold. I ask for your forgiveness.” Heres our guess for now: Akin isnt withdrawing today or tomorrow. He might eventually (before that final Sept. 25 deadline), but it wont be now. Why? Put yourself in Akins shoes. No one in Washington wanted him as the GOP nominee in the first place (even if they didnt try to get the person they wanted), and so he owes them nothing because — in his mind — these folks asking him to get out didnt help him get there. And isnt it perfectly rational in HIS mind that he take longer than 24 hours to decide whether to stay or go? It may not be comfortable for the powers that be, but given how hard U.S. Senate nominations are to come by, it seems nuts to think hell simply walk away from this in 48 hours, especially since he doesnt believe he did anything wrong other than use the wrong word. And by the way, be careful of any polls claiming the race is still close. That is probably true now, but make no mistake: This race is NOT WINNABLE for Akin anymore, period. All Claire McCaskill has to do is run ads featuring every quote from uttered yesterday by every prominent Republican in the country denouncing Akin as unfit to run. 

*** The GOPs draft platform language opposes abortion, even in cases of rape: First Read has confirmed a CNN report that the draft language on abortion in the Republican Party’s official platform calls for the “Human Life Amendment,” which would outlaw abortion in all circumstances (even in cases of rape or incest). An RNC official tells us that a full committee will vote on this draft language — which was THE SAME LANGUAGE in 2004 and 2008 — tomorrow, and the full convention will take it up on Monday. On Sunday night, after Todd Akin’s controversial comments on abortion and rape first surfaced, the Romney campaign stated that a Romney-Ryan administration “would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.” But that statement would run counter to the RNC’s official platform, if the language is again adopted. Of course, this now means that George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney have disagreed with the partys plank on abortion. But the timing for Romney and Republican Party couldnt be any worse. Indeed, Romneys biggest problem heading into the fall election could very well be the Republican brand, and it has become harder for him to differentiate himself from the brand when he added a high-profile House Republican to his ticket.

*** Obama to Romney: If you want to be president, your life is an open book: Maybe the most striking part of President Obamas impromptu news conference yesterday — other than the timing — was his justification for targeting Romneys tax returns. “The American people have assumed that if you want to be president of the United States, that your life is an open book when it comes to things like your finances,” he said. “I’m not asking him to disclose every detail of his medical records, although we normally do that as well. You know? I mean, this isnt sort of overly personal here, guys. This is pretty standard stuff. I don’t think we’re being mean by asking him to do what every other presidential candidate has done — right? It’s what the American people expect.” Candidates sometimes like to distance themselves from the negative attacks. But its clear the president wants to own this, and it also means he believes this strategy of targeting Romneys wealth has worked to undermine the GOP candidates credibility with working-class voters in places like Ohio and Iowa.

*** Julys fundraising numbers are in: Here are the official fundraising numbers for July, per the Federal Election Commission. The Obama campaign raised $49 million, spent $59 million, and has $88 million in the bank. (That $88 million in the bank means that the campaign can spend almost $30 million more than it takes in during the final three months of August, September, and October.) By comparison, the Romney camp raked in $40 million, spent nearly $33 million, and has $30 million cash on hand. But when you factor in the national parties and the outside groups, the GOP has the clear advantage. The RNC raised $38 million and has $89 million in the bank (vs. the DNCs $10 million raised and $15 million cash on hand). Whats more, American Crossroads raised $7 million and has $29 million in the bank, and Restore Our Future brought in $7 million and has $20 million cash on hand (compared with Priorities USAs $5 million raised and $4 million in the bank). And this doesnt include the 501c4 groups, which dont have to file their fundraising numbers with the FEC.

*** Team Romney maintains its ad-spending edge: And with money equaling TV ads, you see why Team Romney (the campaign, RNC, outside groups) is outspending Team Obama on the airwaves this week by MORE than a 2-to-1 advantage, $26 million to $10 million. In fact, Team Romney has held the clear advertising edge for the past month and a half. (And it raises the question if this advantage is currently moving the needle and if it can move the needle come the fall.) Heres the ad spending breakdown for this week (8/20 to 8/26): Restore Our Future $10.3 million, Obama $9.4 million, Americans for Prosperity $6.8 million, Romney $6.5 million, RNC $2.7 million, and Priorities USA $600K. To date, nearly $540 million has been spent in advertising in this presidential election, with Team Romney spending $292 million and Team Obama $248 million.