ST. LOUIS – Rep. Todd Akin fought to salvage his Senate campaign Monday, even as members of his own party turned against him and a key source of campaign funding was cut off in outrage over the Missouri congressman’s comments that women are able to prevent pregnancies in cases of legitimate rape.
Akin made no public appearances but went on former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s national radio show to apologize. He vowed to continue his bid for higher office.
The good people of Missouri nominated me, and I’m not a quitter, Akin said. To quote my old friend John Paul Jones, I have not yet begun to fight.’
But Akin seemed to be losing political support by the hour as fellow Republicans urged him to abandon a race the party had long considered essential in their bid to regain control of the Senate. Incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill is seen as vulnerable in public opinion polls and because she has been a close ally of President Obama.
An official with the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee said the group’s head, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, called Akin on Monday to tell him that the committee had withdrawn $5 million in advertising planned for the Missouri race. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the conversation was private.
At least one outside group that has pounded McCaskill with ads, the Karl Rove-backed Crossroads organization, also pulled its ads from Missouri.
Publicly, Cornyn called Akin’s comments indefensible and suggested he take 24 hours to consider what is best for him, his family, the Republican Party and the values that he cares about and has fought for.
Akin also got a swift rebuke from the campaign of presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Romney and Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape, Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said.
Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive, Romney said in an interview with National Review Online.
Fallout swift, severe
The furor began Sunday in an interview on KTVI-TV in St. Louis. Asked whether he would support abortions for women who have been raped, Akin said: It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.
Later Sunday, Akin released a statement saying that he misspoke. But the fallout was swift and severe.
During the somber interview on Huckabee’s program, Akin apologized repeatedly, saying he made serious mistakes in his comments on KTVI.
Rape is never legitimate. It’s an evil act. It’s committed by violent predators, Akin said. I used the wrong words the wrong way. He later made a similar apology in an appearance on Sean Hannity’s radio show.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said a woman who is raped has no control over ovulation, fertilization or implantation of a fertilized egg. To suggest otherwise contradicts basic biological truths.
Between 10,000 and 15,000 abortions occur each year nationwide among women whose pregnancies resulted from rape or incest. An unknown number of babies are born to rape victims, the group said.
Research on the prevalence of rape-related pregnancies is spotty. One estimate published in 1996 said about 5 percent of rapes result in pregnancy, or about 32,000 pregnancies among adult women each year.
Among ‘Toxic Ten’
Akin, a former state lawmaker who was first elected to the House in 2000, has a long-established base among evangelical Christians. He has been an outspoken abortion opponent, and his campaign website proudly points out that he is listed among Planned Parenthood’s Toxic Ten legislators.
Akin won the state’s Republican Senate primary just two weeks ago by a comfortable margin.
Many considered him a favorite to beat McCaskill in November.