Akin vows to stay in Missouri Senate race despite GOP ire

Insensitive remarks on rape at issue

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Defiant Rep. W. Todd Akin of Missouri vowed Tuesday to stay in his state’s U.S. Senate race as the Republican nominee, letting pass an initial withdrawal deadline despite near-unanimous demands from Mitt Romney and a parade of prominent Republicans that he step aside after his insensitive remarks about rape and abortion.

For a third straight day, Mr. Akin expressed remorse over his comments during a television interview aired Sunday, in which he explained his opposition to abortion for rape victims by saying that women rarely get pregnant in cases of “legitimate rape.” But he stood firm in maintaining that he is the best Republican candidate to take on Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill in a race in which his comfortable lead now appears all but gone.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney joined in calling for Mr. Akin to step aside Tuesday after more Missouri Republicans including U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt and four former senators urged the congressman to withdraw for the party’s sake.

“Todd Akin’s comments were offensive and wrong and he should very seriously consider what course would be in the best interest of the country,” Mr. Romney said in a statement. “Today, his fellow Missourians urged him to step aside, and I think he should accept their counsel and exit the Senate race.”

Top Republicans and conservative commentators have piled on Mr. Akin since his comments, threatening to withhold funding from his campaign and accusing him of putting his own aspirations ahead of the party’s chances of winning the seat, gaining a Senate majority and taking Missouri in the presidential race.

The congressman had until Tuesday evening to drop out of the race with no strings attached, but he must now receive a court’s permission and pay the cost for printing new ballots if he chooses to withdraw before a Sept. 25 deadline.

If he withdraws, Missouri’s Republican Party central committee would pick his replacement.

Mr. Akin pledged to stay in the race during an interview Tuesday afternoon on former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s radio show, in which he suggested there has been “a little bit of an overreaction” to his comments.

He released a 30-second campaign ad earlier in the day asking the public’s forgiveness.

“The fact is rape can lead to pregnancy,” he said. “The truth is rape has many victims. The mistake I made is in the words I said, not in the heart I hold.”

While Mr. Akin hopes the controversy will fade away, more and more Republicans say the damage is irreparable and that his refusal to withdraw could squander the party’s chance to unseat Mrs. McCaskill, who has been widely regarded as this year’s most vulnerable Democratic Senate incumbent.

Mr. Akin, who won the Republican primary last week, has consistently led her in polls but a poll released Tuesday by Public Policy Polling showed him with just a one-point lead in the wake of his comments.

Things could get much tougher for Mr. Akin, as the National Republican Senatorial Committee has said it will sit out of the Missouri race and deny $5 million in planned expenditures if he does not drop out.

Karl Rove, former chief of staff for President George W. Bush, has also said his Crossroads GPS super PAC will pull advertising and contributions from the race, and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus followed his lead Tuesday afternoon.

“We can win this seat and Mr. Akin can make it a lot easier for us if he can step aside,” Mr. Priebus said. “We’re not going to send any money toward that race or spend any money on the ground.”

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