I have been as guilty as anyone in the past two days — REALLY guilty — of piling on with harsh words for Todd Akin. I thought that under the circumstances, there was no time for subtlety or honey to work, so the only alternative was to speak the truth brutally, without niceties. I may have been wrong; there’s no way to know. That said, Bill Kristol, quoting Abe Lincoln to great effect, suggests a different approach, and I think he is probably right and certainly wise:
Now is the time for kind, unassuming—and private—persuasion by conservatives, by pro-life and pro-marriage advocates, by serious people who’ve worked with Akin and by his fellow Missourians. I have reason to believe that’s now beginning to happen behind the scenes.
That said, I am quite worried that any attempt to replace Akin on the ballot will fail. Here’s the deal: While Missouri state law makes it clear that a petition by Akin to withdraw should enjoy the strong, strong assumption of being granted, I do not trust Missouri’s judiciary to allow it. I know nothing about any individual Missouri judge, but I am told the Mizzou Supreme Court is majority Democratic. I can see any court order dropping Akin from the ballot being appealed by the Dems, and can see the high court majority ignoring the law and upholding the appeal, thus blocking the replacement of Akin. (This is the exact reverse situation from New Jersey several cycles back, where state law clearly barred the Dems from replacing Robert Torricelli on the ballot with Frank Lautenberg, but Democratic judges allowed it anyway.) Because this would involve an interpretation of state law, it almost certainly would not be reviewable by federal courts — leaning conservatives high and dry.
All of which is to say that some serious legal planning/gaming out of possible scenarios should be in order by state and national Republican leaders. Kristol’s wisdom, which puts my earlier fulminations to shame, is probably unassailable here — but even if it works, it won’t be the end of problems with that race.