Todd Akin says he's staying in Senate race, despite furor over rape comment

Todd Akin's remark on 'legitimate rape' set off a firestorm, including within Republican ranks. If he were to drop out of the Missouri Senate race before 5 p.m. Tuesday, the state party can nominate a replacement.

Orlin Wagner/AP
Rep. Todd Akin (R) of Missouri and his wife, Lulli, talk with reporters while attending the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia, Mo., on Aug. 16. Mr. Akin was keeping a low profile Monday, a day after a TV interview in which he said that women's bodies can prevent pregnancies in 'a legitimate rape' and that conception is rare in such cases.

Rep. Todd Akin (R) of Missouri apologized for his recent comments on rape but said he was staying in the race for US Senate, saying “I have not yet begun to fight.”

Representative Akin offered his apology on former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s radio show Monday afternoon, his first interview since comments over the weekend in which he referred to “legitimate rape” in response to a question about his views on possible allowances for abortion.

“Rape is never legitimate, it’s an evil act that’s committed by violent predators,” Akin said Monday. “I used the wrong words in the wrong way. What I said was ill-conceived and it was wrong – and for that I apologize.”

But Akin said he would not heed the call of several prominent Republicans to drop out of the race to replace Sen. Claire McCaskill, widely believed to be the most vulnerable Democratic Senate incumbent this year. The Real Clear Politics average of recent polls shows Akin with a 48 percent to 43 percent lead over Senator McCaskill.

“I don’t know that I’m the only person in public office who has suffered from foot in mouth disease here,” Akin said. “My belief is we’re going to take this thing forward and, by the grace of God, win this race.”

He said he had not been contacted by GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney’s campaign or any national Republican organization asking him to drop out of the race.

But several Republican officeholders have called for Akin to step down.

Sen. Scott Brown (R) of Massachusetts, who is embroiled in one of the nation’s tightest and most expensive Senate races, said in an e-mailed statement before Aken’s radio interview that “[n]ot only should he apologize, but I believe Rep. Akin's statement was so far out of bounds that he should resign the nomination for US Senate in Missouri."

Sen. Ron Johnson (R) of Wisconsin, a freshman lawmaker elected in 2010, concurred.

“Todd Akin’s statements are reprehensible and inexcusable,” read a tweet from a campaign feed for Senator Johnson. “He should step aside today for the good of the nation.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R) of Texas, head of the Republican committee charged with electing candidates to the Senate, issued a statement that was far short of a show of support.

“I recognize that this is a difficult time for him, but over the next twenty-four hours, Congressman Akin should carefully consider what is best for him, his family, the Republican Party, and the values that he cares about and has fought for throughout his career in public service,” he said in an e-mailed statement.

On Sunday, Akin, who is a staunch opponent of abortion, sent waves through Missouri when, in an interview with KTVI-TV, he said, “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” He went on: “But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child."

While Akin dodged Mr. Huckabee’s question about whether people in the Republican Party should be circling the wagons around him rather than calling for his ouster, the GOP personality said he thought Akin helped himself on the radio Monday.

“They were controversial and he took full ownership. One of the things I was listening for was would he try to justify or rationalize his comments,” Huckabee said. “He did not. He said, ‘What I said was wrong.’ ”

On the other hand, widespread news reports have hinted at GOP pressure for Akin to resign before 5 p.m. Tuesday. If he were to drop out by that point, the state party would be able to nominate a replacement. After that, a court order would be needed to change his status.

But that’s a decision Akin, on Monday, sounded unlikely to take, despite the pressure.

“Moments like this – when a buffoon candidate needs to be sacked and dropped off at the state line – make me miss the old time pol[itical] bosses,” tweeted Mike Murphy, a GOP consultant who worked with both Romney and Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona before the 2008 GOP presidential primary process.

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