Friday September 21, 2012 | 11:11 AM

Two of Washington's most powerful Republicans appear to be divided about whether to put their money into winning Maine's Senate seat or Missouri's.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., leads the Senate Conservatives Fund, which has raised millions of dollars for conservative Senate candidates. DeMint told The Hill that it could make sense for the party to back Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., if Akin decides to stay in the race for that state's Senate seat.

Akin is the conservative congressman  who was urged to drop out of the Senate race after dismissing the need to allow abortions in cases of rape by saying that women's bodies can prevent pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape." Akin has until Sept. 25 to step aside for a replacement candidate, but it doesn't look like he will.

DeMint told The Hill that he may support Akin despite the "mistake,"  in hopes of winning a Republican majority.

“I think we need to take every Republican candidate around the country and do what we can to elect them. He’s certainly within striking distance,” DeMint said.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, meanwhile, is chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which also has pumped millions of dollars in Republican Senate campaigns. The NRSC pulled out of the Missouri race after Akin's comments and has since focused resources on the Maine race. A win in Maine by  Secretary of State Charlie Summers could keep hopes of a Republican majority alive without winning Missouri.

The NRSC is spending $600,000 on ads in Maine criticizing the independent frontrunner in the Senate race, former Gov. Angus King. Cornyn also has dispatched experienced staffers to Maine to help Summers. Two polls released this week say King is running either 8 or 15 percentage points ahead of Summers, a substantial lead but significantly smaller than it was in June.

DeMint told The Hill he hopes Cornyn reconsiders Missouri, effectively arguing that Akin has a better chance than Summers based on the latest polls.

“I’m going to look at the (Missouri) race and I would encourage John Cornyn to look at all races where Republicans have a chance to win,” DeMint said. Akin, he said, "is certainly within striking distance."

The NRSC appears to be sticking to its Maine strategy, however. Cornyn told The Hill that Akin won't get the NRSC's support.

"We're done," he said.

About the Author

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Open Season is your guide to the 2014 campaign. Our team of political writers has its sights set on Maine’s major elections, from the Blaine House to the U.S. Capitol.

Steve Mistler is covering the 2014 governor's race. He covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.
Steve can be reached at 791-6345 or smistler@pressherald.com.
On Twitter: @stevemistler

Eric Russell is covering Independent Eliot Cutler during the 2014 governor's race. He is a general assignment reporter for the Portland Press Herald.
Eric can be reached at 791-6344 or erussell@pressherald.com
On Twitter: @pphericrussell

Matt Byrne is covering Republican Paul LePage during the 2014 governor's race. He covers Falmouth, Cumberland, North Yarmouth, Yarmouth and Freeport for the Portland Press Herald.
Matt can be reached at 791-6303 or mbyrne@pressherald.com
On Twitter: @mattbyrnePPH

Randy Billings is covering Democrat Mike Michaud during the 2014 governor's race. He covers Portland City Hall for the Portland Press Herald.
Randy can be reached at 791-6346 or rbillings@pressherald.com
On Twitter: @randybillings

Kevin Miller is covering Maine's U.S. Senate race and 1st Congressional District race. He covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald.
Kevin can be reached at 317-6256 or kmiller@pressherald.com
On Twitter: @kevinmillerdc

Michael Shepherd is covering Maine's 2nd Congressional District race. He is a news and State House reporter for the Kennebec Journal.
Michael can be reached at 621-5632 or mshepherd@centralmaine.com
On Twitter: @mikeshepherdME

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