In the wake of controversial comments regarding rape, GOP leaders appear to hope that Rep. Todd Akin will step aside and clear the way for another candidate in the heated contest against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in the Show Me State.
“Congressman Akin’s comments were totally inexcusable," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement on Monday. "What he said is just flat wrong in addition to being wildly offensive to any victim of sexual abuse. Although Representative Akin has apologized, I believe he should take time with his family to consider whether this statement will prevent him from effectively representing our party in this critical election.”
Democrats believe that even before this misstep, Akin’s win in an effectively three-way GOP primary this month gave McCaskill the best chance to hang onto her seat in a Republican-leaning state that President Obama is not even contesting this year. Republican hopes to retake the Senate depend on winning her seat.
In an interview that aired on Sunday, Akin, in response to a question about his opposition to abortion in all cases, said that he understands from doctors that pregnancy as a result of rape is "really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
He later said he misspoke. On Monday, he apologized. "I made that statement in error. Rape is never legitimate. It is an evil act," Akin said in a radio interview with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. "I used the wrong words in the wrong way."
Apologies aside, Akin was not ready to drop out of the race: “I’m not a quitter."
Monday afternoon Akin reconfirmed his intent to stay in the race via Twitter.
“I am in this race to win," he stated. "We need a conservative Senate,” he wrote, while also soliciting campaign contributions.
But GOP leaders, with an eye on a rule that allows the state Republican Party to pick a replacement candidate if Akin withdraws, are leaning on him to step aside.
“Congressman Akin’s statements were wrong, offensive, and indefensible,” National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn, R-Texas, said in a statement on Monday. “I recognize that this is a difficult time for him, but over the next 24 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.”
GOP sources said that Cornyn pushed Akin to exit the race Monday afternoon. Akin “is putting not just this seat but the GOP’s prospects for a Senate majority at great risk,” an NRSC official said. The NRSC will not invest in Akin’s campaign if he stays in the race and will pull $5 million in advertising booked in Missouri this fall, the official said.
Conservative groups American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS also pulled advertising for the candidate.
Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney also condemned Akin’s statement on Monday, as did President Obama.
Sens. Scott Brown, R-Mass., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., who are locked in their own tough reelection battles this year against female challengers, and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who backed businessman John Brunner against Akin in the primary, also called on Akin to withdraw.
"Todd Akin's comments were unquestionably inappropriate and absurd. He should not be the standard bearer for the Republican party in Missouri," said Senator Dean Heller.