Despite widespread assertions that Missouri Republican Rep. W. Todd Akin’s abortion remarks have made him a heavy underdog in the state’s U.S. Senate race, a Democratic-leaning polling firm released a poll Thursday showing him in a virtual dead heat with incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.
According to the survey by Public Policy Polling, Mrs. McCaskill has support from 45 percent of likely Missouri voters compared with 44 percent for Mr. Akin, a result that differs strongly from polls conducted last week by other firms.
Mr. Akin has been widely condemned by Democrats and Republicans since he made comments in an Aug. 19 television interview, in which he tried to explain his opposition to abortion for rape victims by saying that pregnancy is rare in cases of “legitimate rape.”
Most notable Republicans have called on him to step down as the party’s Senate nominee, and party leaders have vowed to withhold millions in contributions from his campaign if he does not comply. He has until Sept. 25 to exit the race and allow the state GOP to select a replacement, if he so chooses.
Mr. Akin was a decided favorite in the race before his comments aired, but he has since been painted by Republicans and some polls as virtually unelectable.
A poll last week by Rasmussen Reports showed him trailing Mrs. McCaskill by 10 points, while a St. Louis Post-Dispatch poll released last week showed him trailing by 9 points.
On the contrary, Thursday’s PPP poll found that 53 percent of Missouri voters — including 77 percent of Republicans — have accepted Mr. Akin’s apology for his comments, and that 54 percent think he should stay in the race, while just 37 percent think he should drop out.
The firm released a poll last week that showed Mr. Akin with a 1-point lead, inciting harsh criticism from Republicans, who called it a deliberate attempt by the left-leaning firm to keep Mr. Akin in the race rather than a scandal-free, and presumably stronger, candidate.