A ‘Legitimate’ Candidate? Akin Won’t Budge from Race
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The 5:00 p.m. Tuesday deadline passed, and the defiant Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri stood his ground and refused to withdraw from the Senate race to unseat Democrat Claire McCaskill.
All day Tuesday, Republicans called for him to step aside.
“We do not believe it serves the national interest for Congressman Todd Akin to stay in this race,” said the statement by Sen. Roy Blunt and former senators Danforth, Bond, John Ashcroft and Jim Talent. “The issues at stake are too big, and this election is simply too important. The right decision is to step aside.”
On Monday, The National Republican Senatorial Committee announced it will no longer support Akin in his U.S. Senate bid for the Missouri seat, currently held by Sen. Claire McCaskill after Akin’s controversial rape comments on a St. Louis political television show.
Since Sunday, many Republicans have distanced themselves from Akin. Top congressional Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. John Cornyn of Texas advised Akin to spend time considering what is best for his family, party and country — political code for urging him to withdraw.
On Tuesday he released a new video, apologizing for his comments.
“Rape is an evil act; I used the wrong words in the wrong way. And for that, I apologize,” he said in the new ad that came out Tuesday. “As the father of two daughters, I want tough justice for predators, have a compassionate heart for the victims of sexual assault, and I pray for them. Fact is, rape could 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.“
The bid for Missouri’s U.S. Senate seat is a polarizing one. The GOP wants it to help them seize back the Senate majority.
“I’m in this race for the long haul and we’re going to win it,” Akin told conservative radio host Dana Loesch.
Akin complained his detractors overreacted to a liberal media campaign to take him down. He said fellow Republicans “ran for cover at the first sound of gunfire.”
His decision means he faces the first statewide race of his career with no mainstream GOP backing. After he announced his intention to stay in the race, the National Republican Senatorial Committee made clear it would not provide any help.
It’s very difficult with the funding because it’s like fighting with one arm,” said Jason Klindt, a political strategist with Axiom. “He’s now in a situation where he’ll be out-spent significantly not only by Claire McCaskill but by the National Democratic Party.”
“We continue to hope that Congressman Akin will do the right thing for the values he holds dear, but there should be no mistake — if he continues with this misguided campaign, it will be without the support and resources of the NRSC,” said a statement by communications director Brian Walsh.
The political drama exposes the tension in the Republican Party created by the growth of the conservative movement, particularly the birth of the tea party movement before the 2010 mid-term elections.
A six-term congressman who won more than 60% support in his five re-election efforts, Akin is a staunch conservative Christian who opposes abortion. By staying in the race, Akin’s candidacy ensures the abortion issue will be a focal point of next week’s Republican National Convention.
Romney is basing his presidential election campaign on economic issues, and the attention to social issues such as abortion distracts from his message that he is better qualified than President Barack Obama to restore strong growth and create jobs, analysts say.
Under Missouri law, now that the Tuesday deadline has passed, Akin can only withdraw from the race with a court order and must pay for any necessary reprinting of ballots if he does so. The state Republican Party would choose another candidate to run against McCaskill, considered one of the most politically vulnerable senators in the country.
After previously criticizing Akin’s remarks, McCaskill issued more supportive comments later Monday.
“While I disagree with what he said, he has now in the last few hours really apologized for what he said,” McCaskill noted. “I think what is startling to me is that these party bigwigs are coming down on him and saying that he needs to kick sand in the face of the Republican primary voters.”
Before the new controversy, many had considered the Missouri race a “toss-up.”
(CNN contributed to this report)