Romney calls for Akin to withdraw
Republican Representative Todd Akin resisted pressure to quit the US Senate race in Missouri today, releasing a new ad apologizing for his inflammatory remarks about rape that have reinserted controversial abortion politics into the US presidential campaign.
Despite calls from throughout the Republican Party for him to step out of the contest against Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, Mr Akin - a staunch opponent of abortion - vowed to stay in the race, saying he represented a conservative movement that must be heard.
"We are going to continue in this race for US Senate," Mr Akin said on a radio program hosted by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, an Akin supporter and favorite of religious conservatives.
"I believe there is a cause here, and there is a part of the message that's missing, and a lot of the people feel left out of the parties," Mr Akin said.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney also called on Mr Akin to pull out of the race.
Mr Romney, who had called fellow Republican Akin's remarks "indefensible" yesterday but stopped short of demanding he withdraw from the race, was more definitive in a statement today.
"Today, his fellow Missourians urged him to step aside, and I think he should accept their counsel and exit the Senate race," said Mr Romney after prominent Missouri politicians demanded Akin give up his campaign.
Mr Akin released an online video ad today in which he again apologized for saying in a weekend television interview that it was extremely rare for women to get pregnant from "legitimate rape."
He again apologized for his comments.
Today is the last day for candidates to file in the Missouri race, giving Republicans until later in the day to easily submit a replacement, if Mr Akin decides to drop out.
"Rape is an evil act. I used the wrong words in the wrong way, and for that I apologize," he said in the Web video.
"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," he added. Mr Akin, noting that he is the father of two daughters, also said he wanted "tough justice" for rapists and expressed compassion for victims.
His comments have become a distraction ahead of next week's Republican convention to nominate Mitt Romney for US president and put the focus on social issues, rather than Mr Romney's main message of the economy and jobs.
The controversy has also complicated Republican efforts to win the majority in the 100-member Senate.
But a poll conducted last night showed little effect from the controversy on the closely contested Missouri race.
Findings from Public Policy Polling showed Akin ahead of Ms McCaskill 44 per cent to 43 per cent, even though the majority of Missouri voters said his rape comments were inappropriate. Before the controversy, the polling firm found Akin ahead 45 per cent to 44 per cent.
"Todd Akin still has a very decent chance at winning the Missouri Senate race," said Dean Debnam, president of the polling firm. "Voters were appalled by his comments about abortion, but not so much that they decided to vote Democratic when they were previously planning to support the GOP."
Ms McCaskill's job approval is also an issue. The poll, which surveyed 500 likely Missouri voters, found that 41 percent of voters approve of her work in Congress, while 53 percent disapprove. The poll's margin of error was 4.4 percentage points.
On Sunday, Mr Akin told KTVI television in St. Louis that the need for abortions in the case of rape was a tough question and that as far as pregnancy is concerned, "if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." Scientists and doctors have long discredited that theory.
President Barack Obama and other Democrats also called Mr Akin's remarks offensive.
Mr Akin is a Tea Party-backed conservative.
Along with Mr Romney's vice presidential pick, Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, Mr Akin proposed legislation in the US House of Representatives that would have changed the legal definition of rape to "forcible rape" to limit federal funding for abortions. Critics said the measure could exempt victims of statutory rape.
Mr Ryan also proposed legislation that would outlaw abortion with no exception for rape.