WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Representative Todd Akin, under fire for controversial remarks on abortion and rape, resisted pressure from fellow Republicans to drop out of the Missouri Senate race on Tuesday amid speculation over who might replace him on the November 6 ballot.
Despite calls from throughout the Republican Party for him to step out of the contest against Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, 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 U.S. Senate,” 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,” Akin said.
Akin’s comments came hours after he released an online video ad 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.”
The comments sent waves of anxiety through the Republican Party at a time when it is trying to reach out to women and other voters in advance of its national convention next week in Tampa, Florida.
The controversy has given new hope to McCaskill, who in recent polls has trailed Akin in a race that is widely viewed as a barometer of whether Republicans can gain the four seats they need to take control of the U.S. Senate.
To the dismay of many Republicans, Akin’s woes also have cast a spotlight on a key part of the Republican platform that party delegates endorsed once again on Tuesday: that abortion should not be allowed in any circumstance.
That is not the position of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who has said that abortion should be allowed to end pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.
Romney’s vice presidential running mate, Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, has expressed a harder line on abortion, saying it should be allowed only to save the life of the mother.
(Reporting By Patricia Zengerle, additional reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City; Editing by Alistair Bell and Eric Beech)