JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Rep. Todd Akin defied the nation’s top Republicans on Tuesday and forged ahead with his besieged Senate bid, declaring the party was overreacting to his comments that women’s bodies can prevent pregnancies in cases of “legitimate rape” and by insisting he abandon his campaign.
Akin pledged to carry on with his quest to unseat Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri. But his bid faced tall obstacles: a lack of money, a lack of party support and no assurance that his apologies would be enough to heal a self-inflicted political wound.
“I misspoke one word in one sentence on one day, and all of a sudden, overnight, everybody decides, ‘Well, Akin can’t possibly win,’ ” he said on a national radio show hosted by former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. “Well, I don’t agree with that.”
Akin predicted he would bounce back from the political crisis threatening his campaign, including a call from presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney to leave the race, and capture a seat that is pivotal to Republican hopes of regaining control of the Senate.
“I’m in this race for the long haul, and we’re going to win it,” he told radio host Dana Loesch in St. Louis.
If he stays on the ballot, Akin will have to rebuild without any money from the national party and with new misgivings among rank-and-file Republican voters who just two weeks ago propelled him to a comfortable victory in a hotly contested three-way primary.
In a potential sign of his strategy, Akin appealed Tuesday to Christian evangelicals, anti-abortion activists and anti-establishment Republicans. He said he remains the best messenger to highlight respect for life and liberty that he contends are crumbling under the big-government policies of President Barack Obama.
Akin appealed to that audience directly during his interview with Huckabee, making allusions to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and focusing on the idea he had only misplaced a single word during a Sunday interview with St. Louis television station KTVI.
But Akin has been roundly criticized both for using the words “legitimate rape” and saying a woman’s body has the ability to prevent conception after such an attack.
Tuesday was the final day in which Akin could withdraw from the race without a court order. As the 5 p.m. deadline to withdraw neared, Republican leaders intensified their pressure on Akin to exit.
Sen. Roy Blunt issued a joint statement Tuesday with all four of Missouri’s living former Republican senators – John Ashcroft, Kit Bond, Jim Talent and John Danforth – saying “it serves the national interest” for Akin to step aside.
Pointing to the group, Romney said the congressman should “accept their counsel.”
A Romney aide said the candidate had been inclined to let Akin make the decision on his own. But after the Missouri lawmakers called for Akin to go, Romney wanted to make his position clear, said the aide.
Akin provoked the political uproar when he was asked in the KTVI interview whether his general opposition to abortion extends to 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,” Akin said.