By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor
(CNN) – Even as the official Republican Party continues to try to derail Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin over his remarks about “legitimate rape,” a powerful force within the GOP has begun rallying to the candidate’s side: the party’s socially conservative base.
Powerful Christian activists in the GOP have begun pushing back against party leadership, alleging it has gone too far in trying to thwart Akin and that it is attempting to sideline issues that social conservatives care about, such as abortion.
The criticism is creating major tensions between the mainstream Republican Party and a key part of its base days before the GOP’s convention is set to open in Tampa, Florida.
“Following the pounding of Todd Akin by the GOP kings and lieutenants in the last 36 hours, I've come to the conclusion that the real issue is the soul of America,” wrote David Lane, an evangelical activist who’s influential in the Republican Party, in an e-mail to fellow activists Thursday morning.
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“The swift knee-jerk reaction to throw Akin, a strong conservative pro-life, pro-family born again Christian under the bus by some in the Republican Party is shining the light on their actual agenda,” Lane continued.
“We haven't seen anything this vicious since some of the same operatives did this to (Sarah) Palin.”
While many conservative Christian groups have criticized Akin over his “legitimate rape” comment and for claiming that women’s bodies can prevent conception in such cases, the groups have also emphasized that they stand with Akin in opposing abortion, even in instances of rape.
Not all conservative Christian activists are taking Akin's side against the GOP.
"I think it splits the social conservative movement," says Richard Land, who heads public policy for the Southern Baptist Convention. "Some people say, 'Look he is our guy, we are going to stand with him.'
"And some people are saying the odds are this is a fatal blow at least in this election cycle," Land says. "For the good of the movement, for the good of the pro-life cause ... he needs to do what's best for the cause and throw himself on his shield."
Land, who was in Tampa on Thursday attending meetings around the convention, said he thinks Akin should drop out.
Many Republican leaders, from presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, also have called on Akin to get out of the race.
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The National Republican Senatorial Committee and the American Crossroads super PAC that backs GOP candidates both announced that they will stop spending money on the Missouri Senate race. Even tea party groups that have backed Akin in the past said he should step aside for the good of the party and the conservative cause.
The Republican National Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the social conservative criticisms of the party on Thursday.
Akin, who won a tough primary battle this month, has apologized for his comments but also defied pressure to get out of the election.
Republican officials have told CNN on condition of not being identified that the Akin controversy hurts on several fronts. It decreases the chances of capturing Missouri’s Senate seat, which is crucial to GOP hopes of winning control of the chamber, they said.
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And the brouhaha shifts the national discussion to divisive social issues that could repel swing voters rather than economic ones that could attract them in a climate of high unemployment and stumbling recovery, the GOP officials said.
Akin has bowed to Republican pressure to skip the Republican convention next week. But the Senate candidate was in Tampa on Wednesday night to meet with a powerful group of religious conservatives, according to a source familiar with the trip.
In a note to supporters Wednesday night, conservative Family Research Council President Tony Perkins heaped criticism on the GOP for abandoning Akin.
"Todd Akin has a long and distinguished record of defending women, children, and families – and unlike the GOP establishment, I refuse to throw him under the bus over one inarticulate comment for which he has apologized,” wrote Perkins, who is in Tampa attending events leading up the convention.
“As for the GOP, it has no rational basis for deserting Akin when it has stood by moderate Republicans who've done worse,” Perkins continued. “Singling out Todd suggests a double standard, designed to drive out social conservatives.”
CNN’s Tom Cohen and Peter Hamby contributed to this report.
The sad part about Akin's remarks are the same as always with that they of individual, the GOP men supports him and the GOP women are to busy being kept to have a brain and speak up. Don't you have daughters?
Now wait a minute there Joe – a lot of GOP men and women don't like it, but just don't express it publically. They'll speak in the ballot box.
I thought the first amendment gave us freedom of religion AND freedom from religion? These bible thumpers have no idea about our heritage. Leave me alone- "I don't subscribe to your religion!" (as said by Ringo!)
This country was founded by religious individuals.
Many of the Founders were Deists, not Christians.
The tea party will destroy the republican party. These conservative christians are no better than the pope or hitler. They have held the country down for years. Churches need to be taxed. These conservatives fit right into the muslim terrorist role
You do realize that the Tea Party and the Christian Right are two different groups, right? Tea Party is all about fiscal restraint ... Christian Right is all about social issues like abortion.
Tim: that may have been true when Ron Paul established the Tea Party back during Bush's (that's right Bush's) second term.
However, it is true no longer. The Tea Party and the Christian Conservatives are now one and the same. They are no longer fiscal conservatives, they are now purely social conservatives.
All of the TEApartiers I've encountered in Missouri are social conservatives. Sure they may talk about fiscal issues, but they follow it right up and get stuck on finding "good, God-fearing, men" to elect.
Bo – BS – both the same – like it or not.
You knew that at some point the GOP would have to pay the evangelical piper. If one goes to the Mob for favors, someday you'll find that the Mob is back at your door telling you what to do..
The single worst thing to happen to this country in its 236 year history is the Christian Evangelical movement. They are not Christian and I am sure Jesus himself would be sickened by these people. If there were a hell they surely would burn in it for all eternity.
As Ghandi said "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."
Akin: "Abortions should be outlawed in every single case without exception."
Republicans: "This guy is a nutcase and we do not support his run for Senate."
House Republicans: "Do you think they noticed that we just passed the 'personhood' amendment that would do the exact same thing that Akin suggested?"
Somebody stole my user name.
The will of God is fixing to ho slap the RNC convention because of this pinhead.
I bet Jeebus sends the a hurricane because of their ignorant ways!
wouldn't it just be wonderful if god decided to smite them all while at the convention and send a GREAT flood to wash their impurity from the land?......... you know how i know god doesn't exist?? b/c that won't happen. :-/
If any judge make a comment about Bush being re elected and the country going into civil war, he would have been called upon to resign.
typical of the 'holy' Those who choose to lay down judgement on others while 'preaching' about the salvation. Funny how it seems salvation is completely subjective and that I can only be saved if I follow the word of some human. Even funnier is how the separation of church and state is continually eroding in the case of the 'conservative' right. I do not seek spiritual advice from my congressmen, I would presume that they are not in the business of offering it either, except in the case of when it is unwanted or unneeded or Missouri where show me has established a new level of ridiculous.
The Radical Right rules the Republican Party; that's why I'll never vote for them.
Come on, he's the third Republican to go on record with this nonsense. They believe a woman has teeth down there.
We democrats know that they don't.
It's about time Republicans stood up and not let RINOs cave in to let the Liberals/Democrats dictate what the Republican Party should do after every mistep! Did Obama step down when he said the economy was doing fine or when he used a dead woman to attack Romney. Did the Democrats ask Biden to step down for his "shackling" comment.
Sorry to hear about your genitals :(
Perhaps Les Brains would be a better screen name?
Equally descriptive I am sure!
So Teapublicans have been 'caving in' to the Republican establishment? You could have fooled me.
LOL ! :D
There's rhetoric, and then there's utter stupidity. Neither of them are particularly good, but there's still a big difference.
Less wong and more sense, please. Ridiculous comparisons; Akin is a moron who makes your whole party look low-down and sorry. Please rally around him for Obama's sake. Bring him to your convention and nominate him for president.
The Evangelical Taliban Christian party, aka GOP, believes exactly as Akin does it's just that he wasn't supposed to reveal and say it out loud in public during an election season. That's why they are throwing him under the bus. You're supposed to wait until elected and then reveal that you're bat shit crazy and that your entire party is trying to create a Christian theocracy. Idiot!
Of course he said what the repugs think but it will be interesting/disturbing to see how many people vote for him. He just may win.
" throw himself on his shield." No! You fall on your sword, not on your shield. Where did these guys go to school?
These are the same guys who don't understand how the reproductive system works. You can't expect too much of them.
maybe the Conservative Christians need their own gd party...poor babies got little feelings hurt... that's what happens when religion and politics mix...
You know, this is simply indefensible. He didn't misspeak, he said exactly what he meant. Sad thing is, he'll probably be elected to the senate to continue to spread hate and ignorance.
he has no chance to get reelected. Too many women voting in Missouri. thank goodness for that!
" he has no chance to get reelected. Too many women voting in Missouri. thank goodness for that! "
Hmmm... it's the *Missouri* part that concerns me. If this happened in California, I'd be more confident in his 'not' being re-elected.
God Bless the Christian Extremist....er...Republican Party.
All Republicans are bad for average people but(This the worst i have ever seen, no good except for big money and gas and oil companys
>>>"...for average people"
So with the country split, almost down the middle between Republicans and Democrats.. who are the average people?
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.