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Republicans Urge Akin to Quit Senate Race

Republicans Urge Akin to Quit Senate Race

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - August 20, 2012


Senate Republicans are urging Rep. Todd Akin to drop his U.S. Senate bid in Missouri after the candidate told a local news show that women "rarely" become pregnant through "legitimate rape."

The National Senatorial Campaign Committee has pledged to pull the $5 million it had planned to spend in Missouri if Akin stays in the race, a Republican with knowledge of the committee’s activity confirmed to RealClearPolitics. Crossroads GPS, a super PAC that has been running ads against Akin’s Democratic opponent, Sen. Claire McCaskill, plans to withhold additional ads if Akin does not drop out, spokesman Nate Hodson said.

But the six-term congressman is showing no signs of exiting the race. Akin filmed a campaign ad apologizing for the remarks and asking for forgiveness. “Rape is an evil act. I used the wrong words in the wrong way and for that I apologize,” Akin says looking directly into the camera. “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.”

Amid calls to drop out Monday afternoon, Akin sought campaign donations: “I am in this race to win. We need a conservative Senate,” he wrote in a Tweet. “Help me defeat Claire by donating . . ." Earlier that day, he apologized on Mike Huckabee’s radio program, but told him, “I’m not a quitter.” Huckabee supported Akin in the primary. 

NRSC Chairman John Cornyn issued a statement implying that Akin should reconsider. “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."

The backlash from Akin’s comment has put in doubt an important race that had seemed very winnable for Republicans, who are eager to regain control of the upper chamber from Democrats.

The controversy could also have an impact beyond the fight for control of the Senate. Akin’s remark, despite his subsequent apology and clarification, handed national Democrats another way to wound Republicans among women voters, a key constituency in congressional and presidential battleground states.

President Obama condemned the remarks in a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room today. “I think the underlying notion that we should be making decisions on behalf of women for their health care decisions, or qualifying forcible rape versus non-forcible rape -- I think those are broader issues, and that is a significant difference in approach . . . between me and the other party.” 

McCaskill is among the most vulnerable incumbents this cycle, and Republicans have tied their hopes of retaking the Senate to capturing her seat in this red-trending state. McCaskill trails Akin in the polls, and she has tried to gain ground by painting him as an extremist. In an interview with MSNBC on Monday morning, McCaskill said her opponent’s remarks provide a “window” into his mind. “I hope this is one of those gut-check moments” for Missouri voters, she said.

Akin, who won a crowded, competitive primary just two weeks ago, has touted his conservative credentials and made abortion rights a signature issue of his campaign. But even Republicans are saying he went too far this time.

In the interview with a St. Louis television station that aired Sunday, Akin was asked if he could support abortion in rape cases. “It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy’s] really rare,” Akin said. “If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something. You know, I think there should be some punishment. But the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

McCaskill quickly responded on Twitter: “As a woman & former prosecutor who handled 100s of rape cases, I'm stunned by Rep Akin's comments about victims this AM.” The senator’s campaign also began fundraising off the remarks. “It’s fair to say we’ve seen an uptick in donations,” spokeswoman Caitlin Legacki wrote in an email to RCP on Sunday night.

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Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at chueyburns@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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