Aug 21, 2012 No Comments ›› Pat Dollard
Excerpted from The Hill: GOP standard-bearer Mitt Romney on Tuesday personally called on Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) to withdraw from the Missouri Senate race as pressure on the embattled Republican intensified.
Romney’s statement followed a last-ditch effort by Missouri Republicans to pressure Akin from the race, and highlighted mounting concerns that Akin could cost the GOP control of the Senate and even hurt Romney’s own effort to unseat President Obama.
The effort had no immediate effect, as Akin earlier on Tuesday reiterated his intention to stay in the race against Sen. Claire McCaskill (Mo.), who had been seen as perhaps the most vulnerable Senate incumbent in the country before his opponent’s controversial comments about abortion and “legitimate rape.”
Akin had until 6 p.m. Eastern Time to meet the simplest deadline for withdrawing from the race. He did not withdrawal by that time so now he would need to file a court order to have his name removed from the ballot.
Romney a day earlier rebuked Akin for his comments, but on Tuesday went a step further by urging him to quit the race.
“As I said yesterday, Todd Akin’s comments were offensive and wrong and he should very seriously consider what course would be in the best interest of our country,” the presumptive GOP presidential nominee said in a statement. “Today, his fellow Missourians urged him to step aside, and I think he should accept their counsel and exit the Senate race.”
Akin’s comments have provided Democrats a political gift just a week before Romney’s coronation at the Republican National Convention next week. The controversy had dominated political news, and President Obama’s campaign has sought to tie Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), to Akin.
Just a few minutes after the 6 p.m. deadline passed, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee issued a release in which chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) called Republican backlash against Akin “hypocrisy of the highest order.”
“Don’t be fooled by the faux outrage. This is not about principle. Congressman Akin’s substantive position on choice is the official position of the Republican party,” she said in the statement.
The Democratic National Committee followed suit soon after, with a fundraising email tying Akin’s candidacy to the GOP platform, which prohibits abortion even in cases of rape or incest.
In a local television interview that aired Sunday, Akin said pregnancies from rape were “really rare” and that in a “legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
Akin later apologized for the comments as Republicans concluded he had in an instant turned himself into a heavy underdog in the race.
Romney followed a long line of prominent Republicans, ranging from Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) to Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown and Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who have asked Akin to drop out. National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (R-Texas) on Tuesday told Akin that staying in the race would mean forfeiting the $5 million the NRSC planned to invest in his race.
Missouri Republicans on Tuesday stepped up their pressure on Akin, who according to a GOP operative familiar with the private talks believes he can improve his image in the coming weeks and months and still defeat McCaskill.
“He very much wants the ability to rehabilitate himself somehow,” the operative said.
That could explain why the Akin campaign launched a nearly $150,000 ad buy on Tuesday morning for a 30-second spot titled “Forgiveness” in which Akin apologizes for “us[ing] the wrong words in the wrong way.”
A poll released on Monday night showed Akin still slightly leading McCaskill, despite the controversy, but prominent election analysis service the Cook Political Report moved the race from a “toss-up” to “likely Dem.”