Leading Republicans weren’t the only ones pulling for Rep. Todd Akin to get out of the Missouri Senate race on Tuesday. Local TV stations across the Show Me State had a lot on the line, as well.
Stations stand to lose a lot of money with Akin defying pleas from the GOP establishment -- including Gov. Mitt Romney -- to abandon his campaign. Their urging came after his bizarre comments about women being able to prevent pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape.”
Akin, the Republican seeking to unseat incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill, prepped an ad Tuesday apologizing for his remarks, saying he “used the wrong words in the wrong way” and he has “a compassionate heart” for sexual assault victims.
But how many more ads he will be able to run between now and November remains a question that could negatively impact some of the country’s leading station groups, including Belo, Sinclair and Gannett (with affiliates in St. Louis) and Meredith, Hearst and E.W. Scripps (in Kansas City).
All were counting on a hotly contested Senate race to generate a ample spending with McCaskill considered a vulnerable incumbent and top Republican target.
But criticism of Akin's comments has been so strong that the National Republican Senatorial Committee has said it won’t spend on his behalf. And loaded outside groups have followed suit. The Los Angeles Times reported the Karl Rove-backed Crossroads GPS super PAC was making plans to stop ads attacking McCaskill.
If Akin has little outside support and struggles to fund raise on his own, he could be a scant presence on the air. As of July 18, the Center for Responsive Politics indicated Akin had only about $530,000 in cash on hand, while McCaskill had $3.5 million.
An example of the money that could have kept flooding Hearst's and Belo's way? Akin had already spent $2.2 million and McCaskill had dropped $9.2 million by mid-July.
Stations will continue to get lots of McCaskill’s money and super PACs wanting to stick it to the Washington GOP leadership could still pump money to Akin. Yet, if McCaskill pulls way ahead, outside groups may move their spending elsewhere. The post-Labor Day bombardment of ads from both sides -- which stations love -- may never materialize.
Had Akin dropped out Tuesday, a new nominee would have been embraced by the GOP and likely received a rush of money for his or her rescue effort.
Stations in Missouri could still benefit if President Barack Obama and Romney contest the state aggressively. But polls suggest Romney could pull away, prompting Obama to reallocate money elsewhere.
As far as politics are concerned, it's possible Missouri won't be the Show Me The Money State that was expected in 2012.