Kit Bond to endorse Akin, Priebus hints at RNC support

Former Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo.
Whitney Curtis

Kit Bond -- a former governor, senator and decades-long fixture in Missouri Republican politics -- will endorse Todd Akin's Senate bid Friday, an Akin campaign source tells CBS News.

Bond's official backing of the embattled candidate could signal to the state's GOP establishment that it's time to get behind the challenger's effort to unseat Sen. Claire McCaskill now that that the deadline for him to withdraw from the race has passed.

The news of Bond's impending endorsement came after the National Republican Senatorial Committee suggested Wednesday that it is may reverse its previous vow to withhold any additional financial support from Akin.

"As with every Republican Senate candidate, we hope Todd Akin wins in November and we will continue to monitor this race closely in the days ahead," NRSC Executive Director Rob Jesmer said in a statement.

Last month, Bond was at the forefront of a failed effort to persuade Akin to drop out after the Republican nominee made a controversial claim, for which he later apologized, that victims of "legitimate rape" rarely get pregnant.

Additionally, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Thursday in an interview with CBS News that he was backing off from the heavy criticism he had leveled at Akin when he, too, was encouraging the nominee to drop out of the race.

Priebus' prior vow that the RNC would not send Akin "a penny" apparently still applies in the technical sense, since the committee does not give money directly to candidates, but Priebus said the RNC was dedicated to doing everything it could to promote "the entire ticket" of Republicans running in Missouri.

Asked directly if he considered Akin to be a better option for Missouri voters than McCaskill, Priebus did not hesitate.

"Well, absolutely," he said in the interview. "That's a given, and as chairman of the party, I have an obligation to make sure we win as many seats in the Senate as possible."

The Senate Conservatives Fund -- a nationally active political action committee founded by South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint -- also jumped to Akin's defense on Thursday with an endorsement and financial pledge of $290,000 to his campaign.

The new commitments to Akin came as the congressman told reporters that McCaskill's demeanor during last week's debate was not as "ladylike" as it was in her 2006 debates against Jim Talent.

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    Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News.