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Will Todd Akin quit Senate race? The GOP wants to know (+video)

Republicans worry Representative Todd Akin's ill-conceived comments about pregnancy and rape will cost them a Senate race in Missouri. Akin's comments played into an assertion of Democrats, that Republicans are out of touch with women's rights.

By Lisa Mascaro and Mark Z. BarabakTribune Washington Bureau (MCT) / August 21, 2012

This file photo shows U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., announcing his candidacy for U.S. Senate. Akin said in an interview Sunday that pregnancy from rape is "really rare."

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, file

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WASHINGTON

Leading Republicans sought Monday to pressure Rep. Todd Akin into quitting the U.S. Senate race in Missouri, fearing his ill-considered remarks on abortion and rape would cost the GOP its shot at controlling the chamber and damage the party’s presidential ticket.

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Democrats, eager to capitalize on Akin’s comments, issued a burst of fundraising appeals — subject line: “Legitimate Rape” — and even President Barack Obama weighed in, saying the congressman’s statement was hard to comprehend.

But Akin, while apologizing, insisted he would stay in the race, one of a handful that could determine which party runs the Senate after November. He made his own money pitch, asking donors to chip in $3 apiece “as a sign of support of my continued candidacy.”

The six-term congressman, who represents part of the St. Louis suburbs, drew an outraged response from members of both parties after a Sunday interview in which he explained his opposition to abortion, even in the case of rape. Akin said such pregnancies were “really rare” because “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

The near-panic in GOP ranks Monday reflected a political calculation; Akin’s comments played precisely to an assertion Democrats have pursued relentlessly — that Republicans are retrograde and insensitive to women’s rights.

And it did not require a great leap of imagination to tie Akin to GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, who has sponsored anti-abortion legislation with Akin and, unlike Romney, opposes the procedure even in cases of rape and incest.

Democrats eagerly highlighted that connection Monday, ignoring the fact that very few Republican — and certainly neither Romney nor Ryan — publicly stood up to defend Akin or his remarks.

“He should understand that his words with regards to rape are words that I can’t defend, that we can’t defend, and we can’t defend him,” Romney said in an interview with television station WMUR in Manchester, N.H.

Obama weighed in during a surprise visit to the White House briefing room.

“Rape is rape,” he told reporters. “The idea that we should be parsing, qualifying, slicing what types of rape we’re talking about doesn’t make sense to the American people. It certainly doesn’t make sense to me.”

Despite Romney’s swift repudiation, Obama said Akin’s comments “underscore ... why we shouldn’t have a bunch of politicians, the majority of whom are men, making health care decisions on behalf of women.”

In a radio interview Monday with media personality and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee — one of Akin’s few defenders — the congressman said his remarks were ill-conceived and wrong and he apologized. “Let me be clear,” Akin said. “Rape is never legitimate. It is an evil act.”

He insisted, however, he would not abandon the race against Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill, even with clear signs that many in the Republican Party wished he would do just that.

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