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Akin returns to campaign in Mo. after controversy

By CHRIS BLANK

Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin filmed an apology ad in Ohio and met with conservative activists in Florida. But he waited a full five days after triggering a national furor with comments about women’s bodies and “legitimate rape” before appearing publicly in Missouri.

This coming week, Akin plans to finally resume a typical campaign.

Communication experts say Akin will need to be accessible to persuade home-state voters to choose him over Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill. That could mean sacrificing some of the control his campaign has exerted over his message during a week spent largely out of public view. But Akin could also ease back into the campaign by appearing first before friendly audiences, experts said.

“At some point, he has to then personally re-engage the campaign, and he cannot continue to rely wholly on his own paid advertisement and social media,” said Mitchell McKinney, a professor of communication at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Akin exited Missouri after St. Louis television station KTVI aired an interview Aug. 19 in which the suburban St. Louis congressman was asked whether his general opposition to abortion extended to women who have been raped.

Akin said: “From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

The day the interview was broadcast, the campaign issued a statement in which Akin said he misspoke. The next day, he apologized in a radio interview with former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who had endorsed him in Missouri’s primary. He also has gone to Ohio to film an apology ad and traveled to Florida, where he met with fellow conservatives who had gathered in advance of the Republican National Convention.

Akin also appeared on national TV morning programs and some radio shows while his campaign sent emails asking for campaign contributions and posted numerous messages on Twitter. But he did not appear publicly in his home state until Friday.

Gerard Corbett, chairman and CEO for the Public Relations Society of America, said Akin caused himself significant damage and that he would advise Akin be accessible and apologize.

“The message I read out of his camp looks pretty reasonable: ‘I made a mistake but I’m staying in the race because I have a lot of constituents that believe in me,”’ Corbett said. “I think that’s a good message. He needs to focus on that, be consistent and be available and accessible.”

That could be on the horizon. Akin campaign spokesman Ryan Hite said after a lull in “ground campaign activity,” Akin was to resume campaigning and making public appearances in Missouri.

“I would expect to see him out beginning the next week,” Hite said Friday.

But it remains unclear exactly how the past week’s controversy will affect how Akin campaigns. One of Akin’s last Missouri public appearances before his comments about rape came at the State Fair where he spoke freely with reporters and questioned whether the federal government should be responsible for the national school lunch program. Later, he joined other Missouri Republicans in criticizing federal regulations.

In contrast, Akin on Friday announced his news conference in St. Louis County with little advanced warning. He delivered a brief statement and accepted few questions from reporters.

Asked about his campaign, Akin said: “We campaign the same as we have in the past. It’s pretty straightforward, campaigning is campaigning.”

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