This is a difficult election year for Republicans in Missouri. Their candidate for the U.S. Senate, Todd Akin, dug a deep hole for himself when he made insensitive remarks about rape, pregnancy and abortion. He apologized. Top GOP leaders asked him to drop out of the race against incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill. He refused.

After he stubbornly refused to quit the race, gradually many Republicans, because of party loyalty, returned to the fold, that is, they said they would support him. They all are not happy with him, which can be the case in many major races. Party members often aren’t thrilled with their party’s candidates.

One line of reasoning for those Republicans not happy with Akin is that it’s important to fill that Senate seat with a Republican regardless of who the person is, where he stands on issues and his past record, which for Akin is a mixed bag. He seems to have drifted to the far right from earlier positions. He has said things in his bid for the Senate that he didn’t voice when running successfully for the U.S. House, we have been told. He probably had those beliefs earlier and just didn’t come on as strong.

There are other Republicans we’ve talked to who believe Akin is too radical and they flat out say they won’t vote for him. That doesn’t mean they will support McCaskill. They just will pass on that race.

In the last 50 to 75 years in Missouri, Republicans have had a number of very conservative candidates for federal and state offices, but none were Akin-like in stating their beliefs. We have elected Republicans who were conservative, but often they compromised on legislation because it became practical politics to do so to make some progress on important issues.

Now there are Republicans, some new in being active party members, who are strongly backing Akin. They like his extreme position on issues because they also are to the far right.

Polls indicate the Akin-McCaskill race will be close. Missourians have moved to the right — most not as far as Akinville. President Obama is expected to lose Missouri. McCaskill knows that and she has put distance between her candidacy and Obama’s bid for re-election. Four years ago, they were tight.

If McCaskill loses, blame can be placed on her once cozy relationship with Obama.

The facts are that McCaskill has been a fighter for badly needed reforms. She has worked very hard for accountability in spending, especially in the awarding of war contracts. She’s strong on defense and a champion of cutting waste and fraud. She has been out front on veterans’ issues. She can take credit for being one of the leaders in straightening out conditions at Arlington Cemetery. McCaskill has worked to keep Saturday mail service and has opposed the plan to close many rural post offices. This Democratic senator has been responsive to Missourians on countless requests. In other words, her record is one of hard work and championing clean government.

Sen. McCaskill is proud of her middle rating on issues and she is emphasizing she’s not against compromising. In the recent debate in Columbia, McCaskill was more up on issues than was Akin, especially on state matters that involve the federal government.

The McCaskill-Akin race is drawing national attention because of what Akin said about women. It’s obvious many Republicans aren’t happy with him but the staunch party members will vote for him, along with those extremists who have embraced him. But it’s clear that there are Republicans who will leave blank the boxes on the ballot in this race.