Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) is saying he's in the Missouri Senate race to stay despite calls from Mitt Romney for him to step aside over controversial remarks on rape and abortion. The come-from-behind candidate who had been leading in the polls has come under intense pressure to step aside since stating on Sunday that women's bodies could prevent pregnancies in cases of "legitimate rape."
Romney, who will officially become the GOP nominee next Thursday night in Tampa, Fla., initially expressed concern over Akin's statement but on Tuesday issued a stronger statement by suggesting that he officially step aside.
"As I said yesterday, Todd Akin's comments were offensive and wrong and he should very seriously consider what course would be in the best interest of our country. Today, his fellow Missourians urged him to step aside, and I think he should accept their counsel and exit the Senate race."
Besides Romney, other GOP heavyweights who have called on Akin to step aside include vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.) and Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), former Alaska Gov. and vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and Fox News host Sean Hannity.
However, Akin, who was not the first choice of mainstream or tea party Republicans in the Missouri GOP primary, bypassed Tuesday's 5:00 p.m. CDT withdrawal deadline. As a result, his campaign war chest took a major hit with most of his major funders backing away from the six-term congressman.
Akin also fired back at Romney and the other party officials who have been calling for him to step aside.
"I've had a chance now to have run through a primary, and the party people said when you win the primary then we'll be with you. Well, they were with us. Then I said one word and one sentence on one day, and everything changed," Akin, who has apologized for his comments, told Fox News' Mike Huckabee, an early supporter. "I haven't done anything morally or ethically wrong. It does seem like a little bit of an overreaction."
The GOP senate candidate also sees his campaign as representing "regular people" as opposed to "the big party people."
He issued a taped apology in his attempt to downplay the uproar over his statements.
"Rape is an evil act. I used the wrong words in the wrong way and for that I apologize. As the father of two daughters, I want tough justice for predators. I have a compassionate heart for the victims of sexual assault. I pray for them. The fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy. The truth is, rape has many victims. The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold. I ask for your forgiveness."
One leading evangelical who asked not to be identified, said they initially felt Akin should stay in the race but now it appears that due to the many key individuals and organizations that are backing away from him, winning would be virtually impossible. Some of the groups who are pulling financial support from Akin's candidacy include the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Crossroads GPS, which had already spent $5 million on the race.
"Every now and then you've got to take one for the team and this is Akin's time," they said.
But another one of Akin's supporters is still sticking with him. The Family Research Council's Tony Perkins issued a statement Tuesday.
"Congressman Akin's comments over the weekend were inappropriate and indefensible. However, despite Congressman Akin's poor choice of words, we continue to support him in his campaign for the U.S. Senate," said Perkins in a written statement. Our support is based not upon one statement, but rather a lifetime of service."
"I have known Congressman Akin for nearly a decade. My personal experience with Todd along with his record make clear his compassion and commitment for the sanctity of life, the foundation of the family and the well-being of all Americans."
Moreover, Akin said he has received calls of support from several of his colleagues in the House and that "good friends, closer than brothers," had advised him to keep focused on the race.
He faces Democrat incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill in the November general election.
Correction: Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012:
An article on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012, about Rep. Todd Akin choosing to stay in the Senate race incorrectly reported that he is a 10-term congressman. He has served six terms in Congress.