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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.

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GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky pointedly suggested Akin “take time with his family to consider whether this statement will prevent him from effectively representing our party in this critical election.” Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the head of Republican campaign efforts in the Senate, said much the same thing.

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An official with the National Republican Senatorial Committee said it would no longer support Akin, despite having reserved $5 million in Missouri airtime.

In a more ominous sign for Akin, the deep-pocketed conservative groups American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS announced they were pulling out of Missouri and halting their advertising against McCaskill. “The act speaks for itself,” Crossroads spokesman Nate Hodson said.

Until Monday, the Missouri Senate race was one of the top targets of the Crossroads organizations, which together have spent $5.4 million in the state, largely on biting television commercials that seek to paint McCaskill as a big government-loving, tax-increasing liberal. A win in Missouri appears vital to GOP hopes of taking control of the Senate.

Capitalizing on the controversy, McCaskill blasted out a series of Tweets and took to the television airwaves, calling Akin’s comment “jaw-dropping and stunning.”

Republicans’ swift reaction underscored the intensity of their concerns. “These are comments that are very hard to walk back, very hard to justify, and it hurts him with even Republican voters,” said Jennifer Duffy, an analyst with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “This is not helpful to any Republican candidate.”

Even before Akin’s comment, the GOP in general and Romney specifically were struggling with a notable lag in support among women voters. Party strategists have argued, with polling as evidence, that the biggest issue of concern to women — especially breadwinners — is the lagging economy, which can be especially hurtful for single and struggling moms.

That said, abortion can serve as a threshold issue for certain women. With their views in focus, it becomes more difficult for Romney and Ryan to overcome whatever doubts they face among more moderate women, who could be the deciding voters in several swing states.

Akin was the unlikely winner in a largely three-way GOP primary contest earlier this month, and McCaskill’s campaign is eager to portray his views as out of step — as her campaign did in statewide ads meant to boost Akin against other GOP candidates. Akin won with 36 percent of the vote.

McCaskill has steered her campaign away from Obama, and he refrained from mentioning her in his Monday appearance in the White House briefing room.

(Mascaro reported from Washington and Barabak from San Francisco. Also contributing were Matea Gold, Michael A. Memoli and Christi Parsons in Washington and James Rainey in Los Angeles.)

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