Republican Todd Akin remained defiant Monday that he was not withdrawing from Missouri’s Senate race despite hurricane-force pressure from his own party following his weekend remarks on rape victims.
Possible replacement candidates, including the two Republicans he defeated in the Aug. 7 primary, John Brunner and Sarah Steelman, began jockeying for position as Akin moved toward a 5 p.m. deadline Tuesday to withdraw without involving Missouri’s courts.
All day Monday, Akin was forced to confront a parade of detractors that ranged from the president of the United States to the GOP nominee for president to the Texas senator who heads the Senate Republican campaign committee.
“Congressman Akin’s statements were wrong, offensive, and indefensible,” Texas Sen. John Cornyn said. “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.”
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Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee head, said if he was the candidate, “I’d do the right thing and step aside.”
But Akin, a 65-year-old six-term congressman from the St. Louis area, offered no signals that he was ready to end a campaign that saw him sweep past Brunner and the $7.5 million the businessman spent on his own campaign, and Steelman, who was better-known as the result of her standing as a former statewide office-holder.
“I feel just as strongly as ever that my background and ability will be a big asset in replacing Claire McCaskill,” Akin said on a radio show hosted by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who backed Akin in the primary. “I don’t know if I’m the only person in public office who suffered from foot-in-mouth disease here.”
As if to underscore his determination, Akin sent an e-mail to supporters across Missouri seeking campaign contributions.
“I am in this race to win,” he wrote in the e-mail. “We need a conservative Senate.”
Akin also issued a new apology for his remarks, in which he said women have a biological capacity to ward off pregnancy that results from rape.
“It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors that’s really rare,” Akin said in Sunday’s broadcast on KTVI-TV in St. Louis. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
In his statement, Akin again said he made a mistake.
“I used the wrong words in the wrong way,” he said. “What I said was ill-conceived and it was wrong and for that I apologize. I’m a dad of two daughters and I want tough justice for sexual predators and I’ve always had a compassionate heart for the victims of sexual assault.
“The people from Missouri that elected me know I’m not perfect. We all make mistakes. When you make a mistake what you need to do is tell people you’re sorry. Don’t try and hide it. That’s why I have repeatedly said that I am very sorry for my comments.”
He added: “Just because somebody makes a mistake doesn’t make them useless. We need a conservative in the United States Senate, and I am running to replace Claire McCaskill and get our country back on track.”
Picking up the Missouri seat is considered crucial for Republicans who hope to regain majority Senate control next year.
Women leaders said the implication that females can somehow deflect a pregnancy that results from a rape was flat wrong. And they also objected to Akin’s use of the word “legitimate,” saying that any attempt to qualify such a violent act was misguided.
Obama said as much when he met with reporters for his first news conference in several months.
“Rape is rape,” the president said. “And the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we are talking about doesn’t make sense to the American people and certainly doesn’t make sense to me. So what I think these comments do underscore is why we shouldn’t have a bunch of politicians, a majority of whom are men, making health-care decisions on behalf of women.”
For the second straight day, Romney blasted Akin’s remarks, calling them “insulting, inexcusable and, frankly, wrong.
“Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive,” Romney said in an interview with the conservative website National Review Online.
Groups pull funding
The verbal rebukes were one thing. But Akin also faced another reality on the campaign fund-raising front when outside spending powerhouse Crossroads GPS and the National Republican Senatorial Committee said they were pulling hundreds of thousands of dollars in ad buys in the state. The development could undermine Akin’s campaign as he seeks to regroup following the expensive August primary.
Akin, who made no public appearances during the day, was said to be out of state Monday night, and his campaign spokesman did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
Speculation grew throughout the day that Akin had little choice but to withdraw. Republicans said Akin no longer could mount a credible campaign in the face of his remarks, which rocketed coast to coast Sunday after they were broadcast.
If Akin does not voluntarily withdraw by 5 p.m. Tuesday, he must obtain a court order if he decides to step down after that, and the state party would be liable for the costs of reprinting state election ballots if that became necessary. Republicans officials said they wanted to avoid court involvement because that could slow the process of launching a new candidate’s campaign.
Several Missouri GOP leaders said time was short. They said they wanted a replacement candidate in place prior to the start of the Republican National Convention on Monday in Tampa. Any new candidate could raise money and recruit help at the convention, they said.
The 60-some members of the Missouri State Republican Committee would pick a new candidate among more than half-a-dozen names that were floated Monday.
Among the replacement names was former Sen. Jim Talent, who said in Florida that he wasn’t interested.
Getting a new candidate in place prior to Monday suggests a State Committee meeting sometime Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Convention delegates will be flying to Florida on Sunday.
But before any replacement could be picked, Akin would have to withdraw. As the party nominee, he cannot be forced from the ballot through legal means or through an action of the state party.
On Monday, no elected Republicans in Missouri stepped forward to back Akin. GOP sources said the party’s highest elected Republican, freshman Sen. Roy Blunt, also had determined that Akin had to go and had been in contact with the congressman.
Blunt did not comment, but other Republicans spoke out.
“Representative Akin’s comments are inexcusable and just plain wrong,” said Eric Zahnd, the Platte County prosecutor and Romney backer. “They are an attack on millions of women who have been the victims of rape, and they reveal how little he knows about that horrendous crime. In my opinion he should withdraw from the race for the United States Senate.”
Said state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, a Columbia Republican, called the remarks “so barbaric and so offense that I think it clearly shows that he doesn’t have the ability to represent Missouri’s values. And I think he needs to get off the ticket.”
Also speaking out was state auditor Tom Schweich, who has twice expressed interest in running for the Senate. He reminded Republicans that the “ultimate objective” is to defeat McCaskill.
“It imperative that we replace her this year, not six years from now,” Schweich said.