Facing a deadline to withdraw from the Missouri Senate race, Representative Todd Akin says he will not step aside. Akin has been under fire for days for his controversial comments about so-called "legitimate rape." Many members of the Republican establishment, including Mitt Romney and Mitch McConnell, have put pressure on Akin to pull out of the Senate race against Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill. On Tuesday, Missouri's Republican U.S. Senator and four former Republican senators issued a joint statement calling on Akin to step aside. Audie Cornish talks with Brian Naylor.
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Todd Akin is staying in the race. The Republican Senate candidate has once again refused to drop out despite the urging of GOP leaders. Akin has been under fire since Sunday for comments he made in an interview. He said women's bodies prevent them from becoming pregnant after what he called legitimate rape. Akin had a deadline this evening to remove his name from the ballot, and that deadline has passed.
NPR's Brian Naylor is following the story, and he joins us now. And, Brian, Todd Akin apologized for his comments again today. But tell us more about what he had to say.
BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Right. Well, he appeared on a couple of conservative radio shows, Sean Hannity's and Mike Huckabee's. And he said, we are going to continue in this race for the Senate. Now, Huckabee asked him if he felt betrayed by his fellow Republicans, many of whom have been calling on Akin to withdraw. Here's how he answered that.
(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO TALK SHOW)
REPRESENTATIVE TODD AKIN: It does seem just misspoke one word in one sentence on one day. I hadn't done anything that was morally or ethically wrong, as sometimes people in politics do. We do a lot of talking. And to get a word in the wrong place, you know, that's not a good thing to do, or to hurt anybody that way. It does seem like a little bit of an overreaction.
CORNISH: Now when Congressman Akin calls the response to his comments an overreaction, I mean, who exactly is he referring to there?
NAYLOR: Well, just about every top Republican - from the party chairman to the Senate minority leader, to the head of the Senate Campaign Committee - says Akin - who said Akin won't get any campaign money if he continues. They've all been calling for him to step aside.
Today, there were some new voices added. The current Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri and four former GOP senators from the state issued a statement, calling on Akin to withdraw. And then this afternoon, Mitt Romney, in a statement, said Akin should accept the counsel of these former and current Republican senators in Missouri and exit the race.
CORNISH: So, how does Akin survive, keep his candidacy going without money from the party, without support of the GOP establishment?
NAYLOR: Well, he says he's been getting campaign donations from people he calls regular small people, grassroots supporters. And he does have backing from some social conservative groups. The Family Research Council's Family Action PAC says Akin is the victim of gotcha politics. He also released a video early today, again apologizing, but saying nothing about quitting. Here's a bit of that.
(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)
AKIN: Rape is an evil act. I used the wrong words in the wrong way, and for that I apologize. As a father of two daughters, I want tough justice for predators. I have a compassionate heart for the victims of sexual assault, and I pray for them.
CORNISH: Brian, beyond Missouri, what are the implications of Akin remaining in the race?
NAYLOR: Republicans need four seats to gain control of the Senate, and they were counting on Missouri to be one of them. The Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill is seen as vulnerable. But with Akin remaining on the ballot, the GOP's chances of winning Missouri is no longer a sure thing, and their chances of winning the Senate are a bit diminished.
CORNISH: And now they're talking about a topic they don't want to be, right?
NAYLOR: Exactly. They want to be focused on the economy and the jobless rate, but now the focus has shifted to social issues. There's already a gender gap between women who support Democrats and Republicans, and this doesn't help Republicans close it.
Today, for instance, the Republican Party's platform committee is meeting in Tampa in advance of the convention that starts next week. And they approved a plank that says all abortions should be illegal, including in the case of rape.
And while this has long been part of the Republican platform, Democrats are now suddenly calling this the Akin amendment. And even though Romney has said he believes there should be such an exemption in cases of rape, this is a bit of an inconsistency, probably would have gone unnoticed if not for this brouhaha.
CORNISH: Thank you, Brian.
NAYLOR: Thanks, Audie.
CORNISH: NPR's Brian Naylor talking with us about Missouri Republican Todd Akin's announcement that he plans to stay in the Senate race. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.