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.
Look, all I know is, if Rush Limbaugh doesn't have your back, you screwed up royally.
Boy, that really sums up this Akin guy.
Even Rush thinks he should withdraw.
Separation of Church and State, people. Remember that this country was founded on freedom of religion which includes freedom FROM religion. Every time our founding fathers met with foreign heads of state and were asked "What is the official religion of the United States" they very clearly made the point that we have none. Letting religion have any affect on government is what keeps the Middle East perpetually at war.
That shows just how far we have fallen. We have become the very thing we flew from in order to create this country: a country ran by religious zealots.
The Jews are what keeps the Middle East perpetually at war. If you want to call that "religion", I guess you would be right.
Zealots running the country?
You mean Obama?
This Akin guy is going down in flames, and the GOP and true cons are pulling millions of dollars from his campaign.
This guy is a real loser, and the fanatics supporting him are ignorant.
FANTASTIC .. the GOP is doomed, FINALLY FREEDOM FROM STUPIDITY AT LAST
I doubt that highly.
What will you do with all Dems?
The same as 2008-2010, which was nothing?
A health care bill that hasn't helped me a bit, even though I'm a vet.
Yes, both sides are inccompetent.
This is proof that religion has no place in our Government and that we should be agnostic when it comes to choosing our Leaders. The Christian Right Wing represented in this article is no different than Islamic Extremists who want to govern their country via Islamic or Sharia Law. They are one and the same. Insisting on pushing their religious beliefs on others.
Shame on you for being so close minded.
The rest of the GOP just needs to have the courage of their convictions and admit to the rest of the country what we mostly already know, that they really agree completely with what Akin said.
If the GOP would quit trying to take away women's rights (as confirmed by the Supreme Court) and concentrate on FREEDOM for all, the party would gain more votes from women than they would lose from evangelicals who must have other concerns that are just as important as taking away a woman's right to chose. Someone should run a poll to determine how the votes would shift if the GOP would remove the right-to-life plank from their platform.
I wonder if Perkins will have an orgasm just shaking Akin's hand?
31 states give a rapist full custodial and visitation rights if their act results in a child. That is more acceptable to them than allowing the victim to have an abortion. Does it surprise anyone that these states are largely Republican?
I'm going to Google your claim but I so hope you're joking!???
It was a CNN article just the other day
Well, this isn't exactly accurate. 31 states don't prevent a rapist from pursuing parental rights. Still disgusting.
"Christian activists in the GOP" summarizes everything that is wrong with our country and why we are destined for failure as a democratic nation. Until such a time when religion is 100% banned from politics, we will continue our downward spiral on our way to become something more like Afghanistan than the good 'ole USA. Don't think so? just keep voting republican and you'll see.
Right on! Ban them from government and all extensions of same such as schools and the military. Tax all activities of the churches that are not specifically done as worship of God and physical maintenance. et churches out of their social activities that are only a mask to raise money for the church. How do you think the evangelicals ever got into the party of big business in the first place. With money.
This is exactly what the mainstream Repubs hoped would not happen. They need to appeal to the middle while knowing the extreme has no choice but to vote for them in November. But this is making the independents in the center very nervous about the Repub party, no matter how hard Romney shakes his etc-a-sketch positions.
This shows how little the social and fiscal conservatives have in common. Lets hope more GOP candidates say what they really think before November.
tallulah13: "It's a crying shame that people like you lack the compassion to understand it's not about what YOU want. There is a unique story behind every abortion, a story you will never hear. You will never know what brings each woman to make the decision to terminate a pregnancy, but the simple fact remains: They know the circu.mstances of their lives better than any politician, priest or stranger like you. It is their choice, not yours."
Very well said, and exactly right.
See prayer save a dogs soul at saladandchips.com.
"A dog's soul". Can you even hear yourself speak? Or, in this case, read what you type? If so, then you should be in a padded room somewhere.
If a dog has a soul, so do all animals. I assume you are a vegetarian then? And if so, what about the plants and insects and bacteria, etc. These must have souls as well. So when you eat, you are a murderer, whatever you eat. When you boil water you are a murderer because you kill the bacteria in the water. When you step outside you are a murderer if you accidentally stop on an ant.
Do you understand how absolutely crazy you are yet?
Dogs and other animals do not have souls.
noooooo i thought all dogs go to heaven!
GOP = Getting Obscenely Putrid
brilliant, mature post
time for nappy
Obama will win the election in Nov. You see, the more the republican't lie, cheap and attempt to steal this election, the more it increases Obama's chances of winning. That's the basic law of the universe.
How do the Repubs expect to run the country when they can't even run their own party ?
If they didn't have the Dems to hate they would tear themselves apart.
Well, it looks like the far right wing-nuts have a new poster boy!
What do you mean..
The guy misspoke,
The guy just gave false information
The guy offended everybody and their neighbor
The guy lives back in the ninth century,
The guy is intolerant to others
The guy has his own version of Sharia law
Yeapp he is a republican..
This does not surprise me at all. Akin called the GOPs bluff. And now they will support him again. What a bunch of bluster from the GOP, RNC, Romney, Ryan and all the rest of the rightwing wackos.
The GOP convention needs to give serious thought to a different candidate such as Ron Paul.
I hope those people rallying around Akin are just as willing to rally their wallets around the bills to help pay for the unwated kids born in to the world that will need proper care. Their job shouldn't stop at the exit ramp of the womb especially when the parents who didn't want the child abandon it.
The repubs want no part of any type abortion, and afterwards, they want no part of financially supporting the mom. Kinda like some trailer trash coke junkie knocking up their girlfriend and then just 'moving on'.
Personhood is from conception to birth.
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.