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.
Top Catholic to close GOP convention
“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.
Conservative christians clearly see that a Mormon cult Bishop cannot be trusted and will throw his party under the bus. This is what happens when our candidate is not a christian and Believes in MORMON MAGICAL UNDERWEAR over christ. Romney is a joke and conservative christians do not like or trust Romney.Most of us wont vote for him in November and sell out our faith to a man who thinks his pantys he wears protects him from evil. Can you immagine a president who thinks his skidmark has magical powers in the whitehouse........Romney is a sicko wackjob cultist and does not belong anywhere but a padded room along with the other molester rapist Mormons....
The term Pro-Life is inaccurate for social conservatives. They are not "pro-life" they are anti-abortion. If they were truly pro-life, they'd be against the death penalty and support measures to provide affordable and accessible health care to everyone (all God's children).
No surprise there. The hateful Xians and their ignoranmus reprentatives have become a sad, disturbing fact of life.
Bigots defending bigots. Real cutting edge news there.
Congratulation, GOP, you've just given the election to a proven loser.
Your country thanks you!
:end sarcasm mode:
What is pro-life about cutting social security,healthcare,education,starting wars over non-existant weapons of mas destruction and shipping most decent American jobs overseas? A life of struggle serving the rich who are getting riche and richer as they "keep us all in chains? You're better off dead in the womb.
As a whole, American society turns its back on pregnant teenagers. Does the thought ever cross one's mind, even for a split second, that the young lady may be the victim of a horrendous crime?
Most people fail to see the victim–all they see is a "stupid teenager that deserves what she got" (meaning she shouldn't have been doing IT in the first place, or at least using protection–not that she deserved to be attacked). Most people never see past the baby-bump. They never know much beyond their own prejudices against pregnant teens.
A young victim is victimized yet again by society. By religious insti-tutions, schools, etcetera.
Unless a case makes national headlines, very few people will know that a man was convicted of assaulting the young lady. And even then, only the local populace will know her as a victim. Wherever else she goes in America, she will be seen as "just another pregnant teenager."
Magnify this several times over when our US Consti-tution is amended to prohibit abortion.
The life of the spawn of crime must be protected at all costs–until it is born. Society will not help the young victim. Society will not help the new baby.
What is wrong with American society when we cannot see people as people, but must shun those whom we know nothing about?
Let's at least all agree on one thing, shall we? The term "pro-life" is a gross mischaracterization of ideology, and should really be replaced with "anti-choice", for the mere fact that a so-called pro-lifer has zero interest in the life of the unborn after it leaves the womb.
Christians have always turned me off. I realized long ago that their religion was both untrue and pernicious. Conservative Christians use their religion to justify their worst, most antisocial behavior. I threw the religion of my youth overboard and became a secular humanist, and I haven't regretted that decision for a minute.
The GOP is in a true quandry now, does it really have to admit that it never really care about the religous right....
Republicans don't care about the Religious Right? Are you kidding me? Who do you think signs their paychecks?
@skarphace – The Fortune 500 signs their paycheck, the religious are just the foot soldiers to the polls.
Christians should read the book, "How Not To Be A Republican" (a.k.a. The Holy Bible). Hahahahahaahha
I'm a democrat. Just because you wing nuts took over the front page of the party, doesn't mean you represent those of us that voted years before your birth.
Oh, and yes, we are conservative democrats because we didn't grow up watching Jerry Springer or Oprah for that matter.
Comprehend much? It's How NOT To Be a Republican!!! Geez Hahahahahahaah
You own the lack of reading award HaHa. The post referred to the Bible as if only the Republican's read it. There are a lot of conservative Christian democrats in the party long before you kids took it over. I noticed there is no up and coming atheist in either party. Oh, I wonder why?
HaHa, before you come back with something sarcastic, educate yourself on how our country was founded. Here's a link to George Washington's farewell address to the nation.
Pay close attention to what he said about religion, morality, and education.
Please take yourself and all your religious zealots OUT of the Republican Party.
You don't like the party, then go spend your $$$$ and create your own.
You don't like it, then get out. You and your cohorts should have never joined to begin with.
FORMER Republican, now Independent voter/Libertarian
Just proves that religious zealots who call themselves Christian don't know the first thing about what Christ taught. They just like getting together and mast00bating each other with their sick common beliefs.
Ah religion – the world's ultimate dividing force!
The GOP hate the Poor, Sick, Old, Oppressed, and Females. Jesus loves those people. Do what Jesus would do and vote Democrat.
Let's see the whack jobs out in the open.
They need some sunshine of facts to wither and die.
They have been hiding under rocks too long making the rest of us sick.
What a buffoon this Akin is, and to think he's probably smarter than most members of the Rethuglican party
I love seeing the GOP eat each other alive.
I now think the right-wing Christian conservative GOPers should nominate their own third-party candidates for President and Vice President. That would make all my dreams come true.
Where was the so called Christian Right in defending Healthcare for uninsured Americans. It seemed to be me, the Christian Right also were incensed by the Affordable Care Act, and support Republicans who want to drastically reduce Medicaid and Assistance to the poor. I find this disgusting and certainly not a "Christian Value".
You could fill a book outlining their hypocracy.
If there is a Christian Right is there also a Christian Wrong?
The book has already been writen. It's called The Holy Bible. Hahahahaahha
Yes, Jerry, we're called conservative democrats.
skarphace, only the unrighteous assume Christians to be hypocrites because you haven't a clue to what righteousness is.
It is a good thing that I can act as a Christian when I want to. I go to church most Sundays (to take my parents), so I know their rhetoric.
It won't be me on the 'infidel' side of the fence. I will be down on my knees pretending to pray for you.
Good luck to everyone else!
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.