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Akin renews vow to stay in race for Senate

- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 21, 2012

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rep. W. Todd Akin renewed his vow to carry on with his embattled Senate campaign Tuesday, even as a key deadline loomed to withdraw from the race over his comments that women's bodies can prevent pregnancies in cases of "legitimate rape."

Mr. Akin, who has been frantically trying to salvage his once-promising bid against incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, insisted the uproar surrounding his remarks was an overreaction to misspeaking "one word in one sentence on one day."

For the second time in two days, Mr. Akin went on the radio show hosted by former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee to say he planned to stay in the race, despite constant urging from prominent members of his own party to step aside.

"I guess my question is: Is there a matter of some justice here?" Mr. Akin asked. After his original statement, "all of a sudden, overnight, everybody decides, 'Well, Akin can't possibly win.' Well, I don't agree with that."

The race long has been targeted by the GOP as crucial to regaining control of the Senate.

"I hadn't done anything morally or ethically wrong, as sometimes people in politics do," Mr. Akin said. "We do a lot of talking, and to get a word in the wrong place, still, that's not a good thing to do, or to hurt anybody that way, it does seem like a little bit of an overreaction."

Hours earlier, he posted a video online in which he apologized again.

But ominous signs were mounting against the six-term legislator from suburban St. Louis, most notably the apparent loss of millions of dollars in campaign advertising money.

The decision has some urgency. Missouri election law allows candidates to withdraw 11 weeks before Election Day. That means the deadline to exit the Nov. 6 election is 5 p.m. Tuesday. Otherwise, a court order would be needed to remove a name from the ballot.

The uproar began Sunday, when St. Louis television station KTVI aired an interview in which Mr. Akin was asked if he would support abortions for women who have been raped.

"It seems to me, first of all, 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," Mr. Akin said.

In the interviews with Mr. Huckabee and Sean Hannity on Monday, Mr. Akin acknowledged that rape can lead to conception.

"Rape is never legitimate. It's an evil act. It's committed by violent predators," Mr. Akin said. "I used the wrong words the wrong way."

But the damage had been done. The comments drew a sharp rebuke from fellow Republicans, including presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his vice presidential choice, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

The Senate's top Republican, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said Mr. Akin's comments might "prevent him from effectively representing" the Republican Party. He called on Mr. Akin to "take time with his family" to consider whether he should continue in the Senate race.

Two other Republican senators, Scott P. Brown of Massachusetts and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, urged Mr. Akin to resign.

Mr. Akin also apparently has lost a key source of funding. Sen. John Cornyn, head of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, told Mr. Akin that $5 million in advertising set aside for Missouri will be spent elsewhere and that Mr. Akin will get no other help from the committee, according to a committee official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the conversation was private.

Mr. Cornyn told Mr. Akin that he was endangering the GOP's hopes of getting a Senate majority by staying in the race, the official said.

Republican frustration grew Tuesday. Two GOP officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to irritate Mr. Akin, said party officials seeking to talk with him were having trouble reaching him Monday night and Tuesday morning.

Akin campaign spokesman Ryan Hite declined Tuesday to reveal Mr. Akin's whereabouts but said he was not in his suburban St. Louis campaign office. Mr. Hite said the campaign may release information about his public schedule later.

At least one political interest group that has pounded Mrs. McCaskill with attack ads, the Karl Rove-backed American Crossroads, also pulled its ads from Missouri.

The apology video Mr. Akin posted on YouTube early Tuesday was an apparent attempt to claw back some of that funding.

"Fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy. The truth is rape has many victims. The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold. I ask for your forgiveness," he said in the video.

President Obama said Monday that Mr. Akin's comments underscore why politicians — most of whom are men — should not make health decisions on behalf of women.

"Rape is rape," Mr. Obama said. And the idea of distinguishing among types of rape "doesn't make sense to the American people and certainly doesn't make sense to me."

It was just two weeks ago that Mr. Akin was at the top of the political world in Missouri after winning a hotly contested three-way battle with millionaire businessman John Brunner and former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman for the right to challenge Mrs.  McCaskill in the November election. Missouri has grown increasingly conservative in recent years, and Mrs. McCaskill is seen as vulnerable.

She was not among those calling for her opponent to get out of the race.

"What's startling to me is that (Republican) Party bigwigs are coming down on him and saying that he needs to kick sand in the face of all the primary voters," Mrs. McCaskill said at a campaign event Monday in suburban St. Louis. "I want Missourians to make a choice in this election based on policy, not backroom politics."

One anti-abortion group expressed support for Mr. Akin, while another called on him to step aside.

Missouri Right to Life, which opposes a woman's right to get an abortion even in cases of rape and incest, said Mr. Akin's "consistent defense of innocent unborn human life clearly contrasts" with Mrs. McCaskill's position.

But the Christian Defense Coalition called on him to withdraw.

Names are being floated about a possible replacement for Mrs. Akin. A favorite is Tom Schweich, the state auditor who was courted to run for Senate earlier this year but declined.

Other names mentioned include former Sen. Jim Talent, who lost to Mrs. McCaskill in 2008; former Gov. Matt Blunt, the son of Missouri's other senator, Roy Blunt; two members of Missouri's House delegation, Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer and Jo Ann Emerson; and Mr. Akin's two unsuccessful primary opponents, Mr. Brunner and Mrs. Steelman.

Mr. Talent, who lost his seat to Mrs. McCaskill in 2006, said Monday he had been asked to run but declined.

If Mr. Akin were to leave, state law gives the Republican state committee two weeks to name a replacement. The new candidate must file within 28 days of Mr. Akin's exit.

Associated Press writers Henry C. Jackson in Washington; Jim Suhr in St. Louis; and Chris Blank and David Lieb in Jefferson City, Mo., contributed to this report.

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