With the balance of the Senate in the 113th Congress precariously at stake, Republicans came down like a hammer today on the determination of Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) to stay in the race against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).
The seat has been a pickup that the GOP is counting on. Akin was leading McCaskill by 11 points in the latest poll taken before the congressman’s controversial comments about rape and pregnancy were aired.
“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” Akin said on a local TV station Sunday.
With the ensuing mainstream and social media eruption, perhaps one of the most telling reactions was the outcry from those who would serve with him in the Senate.
“Todd Akin’s statements are reprehensible and inexcusable. He should step aside today for the good of the nation,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) tweeted.
“There is no place in our public discourse for this type of offensive thinking,” Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) said in a statement. “Not only should he apologize, but I believe Rep. Akin’s statement was so far out of bounds that he should resign the nomination for U.S. Senate in Missouri.”
In his first media appearance since the furor began, Akin appeared via phone as the first guest on Mike Huckabee’s radio show early this afternoon.
Clarifying that he meant “forcible” rape instead of “legitimate,” and that he believes women do get pregnant from rape, Akin also expressed his intention to stay in the race.
“I don’t know that I’m the only person in public office who’s suffered from a foot-and-mouth disease here,” he said. “This was a very serious error; on the other hand, there are so many good people in Missouri who nominated me.”
“I’m not a quitter and my belief is we’re going to take this thing forward,” Akin said, adding that no one had directly called him and asked him to stand down.
Because, likely, they were waiting to see if he’d announce the move on his own.
National Republican Senatorial Campaign Chairman John Cornyn (R-Texas) rapidly issued a statement giving Akin one day to think about his decision. “Congressman Akin’s statements were wrong, offensive, and indefensible,” the senator said. “I recognize that this is a difficult time for him, but over the next twenty-four hours, Congressman Akin should carefully consider what is best for him, his family, the Republican Party, and the values that he cares about and has fought for throughout his career in public service.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) followed with a statement calling Akin’s remarks “totally inexcusable.”
“What he said is just flat wrong in addition to being wildly offensive to any victim of sexual abuse,” McConnell said. “Although Rep. Akin has apologized, I believe he should take time with his family to consider whether this statement will prevent him from effectively representing our party in this critical election.”
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney called Akin’s “insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong” as well as “offensive,” but did not call for him to bow out of the Senate race.
Pundits and Democrats also piled on, though not necessarily advocating that he drop out as National Review did in an editorial this afternoon.
“If I’m Akin, I stay in the race. He’s running in a red and getting redder state, not Nevada or Delaware. He’s still the favorite,” tweeted the Daily Kos’ Markos Moulitsas.
“If Todd Akin stays in, he’ll be the Sharron Angle of this cycle. GOP will lose a seat we should win,” tweeted former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.
“The views expressed were offensive. Rape is rape,” President Obama said in a rare briefing with reporters today. “And the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we’re talking about doesn’t make sense to the American people — and certainly does not make sense to me.”
But Akin seemed resolved to dig in. “This campaign is more than one TV interview,” he said in a later radio interview with Sean Hannity. As rumors flew that he would drop out by early Tuesday evening, Akin told Hannity, “I was told a decision had to be made by 5 p.m. tomorrow.” Then, the congressman reiterated his resolve to see the race through, saying the “people of Missouri are big enough to take a look at the overall package.”
Hannity chided Akin to think of the good of the Republican Party. “I think there is one political reality that I think has to be faced by you and your campaign and that is that, you know, the reality here is that Democrats now have a ton of ammunition and they are now going to try to use these remarks to hurt everybody they can,” he told the congressman.
Before going on air, Akin tweeted, “I am in this race to win. We need a conservative Senate. Help me defeat Claire by donating.”