Despite being browbeaten by both the leader of the Republican Party and Mitt Romney, Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., steadfastly refused to withdraw from his campaign to oust Sen. Claire McCaskill.
Akin, who has been under fire since claiming that women who suffer “legitimate” rape can’t get pregnant, reiterated that he would remain in the race. He also passed a 5 P.M. deadline to withdraw unilaterally.
“Let me make it absolutely clear,” Akin told radio host Mike Huckabee. “We’re going to continue with this race for the U.S. Senate.” Akin continued, “I believe the defense of the unborn and a deep respect for life…they are not things to run away from.”
Akin defied calls to withdraw from Rush Limbaugh, who called Akin’s comments “stupid,” and Romney, who called the comments “offensive and wrong.” Instead, Akin put up a misspelled ad on his web page asking voters to “Tell McCaskill That Your’re Standing With Akin,” and featuring a prominent photo of a human fetus.
Threat to National Campaign
The level of pressure on Akin to withdraw was a clear sign that Republicans see a danger in Akin’s comments that extend beyond Missouri, and perhaps beyond even control of the Senate. As Care2 Causes’ Jessica Pieklo reported, Akin’s stated position on abortion is exactly the same as the Republican Party’s platform. Akin also teamed up with GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan on the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions Act, which would have limited federal abortion funding to cases of ”forcible rape.” The law would have barred funding for abortion services in cases of statutory rape, and may have barred funding of abortion services for women who were raped through coercion or drugging.
Akin’s statement also threatened to re-open discussion of the Republican “war on women,” which has already been damaging to the Romney campaign (not to mention women). In a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, Romney trailed President Barack Obama among women by a 10-point margin.
The calls for Akin to withdraw also threatened to alienate anti-abortion activists. Anti-abortion groups have stayed staunchly behind Akin.
“Congressman Akin, a longtime pro-life leader, has said he had misspoken, and no one is arguing that rape is anything but a despicable, horrible crime,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List. “We are proud to support Congressman Akin.”
Tony Perkins, the leader of the extreme-right-wing Family Research Council, also warned that efforts to remove Akin from the ticket could strain the religious right’s relationship with the GOP. Those ties are already weakened by the general disaffection with Romney, who is a recent convert to the right-wing.
Limbaugh, Romney, Others Blast Akin
Republicans put on a full-court press in order to try to push Akin out of the race. Limbaugh led the way, taking to the airwaves to call Akin to quit. While Limbaugh said Akin “has not got a war on women going on,” he nevertheless called on Akin to quit for the good of the party.
“Todd Akin has got to realize that whatever he thinks, is the number one thing he should fight for here above all — and above anything that’s personal to any one person — is saving this country. And that means winning the Senate and winning the election against Obama.”
Romney, who had previously criticized Akin’s statement, followed soon after Limbaugh. In a statement, Romney said, “Today, his fellow Missourians urged him to step aside, and I think he should accept their counsel and exit the Senate race.”
Romney was referring to a meeting between Akin and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., as well as former Missouri Senators John Ashcroft, Kit Bond, John Danforth and Jim Talent.
One Deadline Down, One to Go
Republicans are unlikely to let up the pressure, at least in the short term. While Akin missed the deadline to withdraw from the race unilaterally, he still can withdraw during the next five weeks, provided he can get a court order allowing him to. After September 25, however, Akin cannot withdraw from the race under any circumstances.
Whether Akin will withdraw between now and November could have a wide-ranging impact on the country, but it may come down to whether the GOP can find an incentive for Akin to do so. Akin cannot run for re-election to the House, and the GOP outrage has effectively ended his political career. His only hope of staying in politics is to defeat McCaskill, and win a seat in the Senate. Unless the Republican Party can offer Akin something better than a chance at the Senate, he may well stay in no matter how many talk show hosts, presidential candidates, and former senators ask him to quit.
Image Credit: Akin Campaign