Rep. Todd Akin. (AP File)
By Susan Davis, USA TODAY
Under pressure from top Republicans, a defiant Rep. Todd Akin said today he will remain in the Missouri Senate race.
The Missouri lawmaker announced his decision on former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee's radio show, where Akin appeared yesterday to apologize for controversial statements about rape and pregnancy.
"I said one word in one sentence on one day, and everything changed," Akin said today. "I believe the defense of the unborn and a deep respect for life. ... They are not things to run away from."
Akin, a six-term House member, ignited a controversy with comments Sunday saying pregnancy could be prevented in the case of "legitimate rape" because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
The National Republican Senatorial Committee has been trying to get him to withdraw from the race against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. Akin has been widely rebuked, including by GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and President Obama.
NRSC Communications Director Brian Walsh said in a statement that the campaign committee will continue to withhold its "support and resources" if Akin presses on with a "misguided campaign."
"The stakes in this election are far bigger than any one individual. By staying in this race, Congressman Akin is putting at great risk many of the issues that he and others in the Republican Party are fighting for, including the repeal of ObamaCare," Walsh said.
Akin reiterated his vow to stay in the race in a separate interview with conservative radio host Dana Loesch. "Let me just make it clear ... that we are not getting out of this race. We are in this race for the long haul and we are going to win it," he said.
Asked why he would stay in the race when prominent members of the GOP want him out, Akin explained to Huckabee that he believes he can continue to be a powerful voice for the sanctity of human life. Among those calling for Akin to step aside today: Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt and several former senators, including John Ashcroft and Jim Talent.
"I believe there is something that we're missing here, it's something that many Americans in their heart of hearts feel we need to be talking about, and it's not just the 'abortion' issue, it's the question of life," Akin said today. "Because the fact is in America the respect for human life is deeply engrained in our hearts."
Akin said his campaign has drawn support from small donors, even as the deep pockets of the NRSC and outside groups such as Crossroads GPS have pulled their resources. "I noticed a poll came out and (it) still had me a point ahead of Claire McCaskill," he said.
Akin said he has not done "anything that was morally or ethically wrong as sometimes people in politics do," adding the outcry over his original remarks are "a bit of an over-reaction."
"Our campaign in the past was defined by the fact that we stood on principle and we acted with courage," he said. "What we're doing here is standing on a principle about what American is. I believe this is the right thing for me to do. I will be able to add to the message, in some circles, that is being neglected by the Republican Party.
"That is the heart of a winning campaign," he said.
The Missouri Republican Assembly issued the following statement in support of Todd Akin:
"Congressman Akin used the phrase 'legitimate rape' in the sense of an actual, 'forcible rape' as opposed to a claimed rape after consensual sex. He did not mean to imply that there is anything 'legitimate' about some rapes compared to others or intend to be insensitive about the trauma that is experienced by women in a rape situation. We've all chosen a word with more than one meaning before and we censure those Republicans who refuse to call Bidden to task for his statements and yet throw one of our own under the bus by joining with Democrats in this misleading attack with ulterior motives. We call on all Republicans to accept the Congressman's heartfelt and contrite apology offered by an honorable man. After all, Claire McCaskill supports partial-birth abortion and the Democrat platform contains a pro-abortion plank.
"Congressman Akin's comment on the rarity of pregnancy following rape was initiated by, '... From what I understand from Doctors.' Whether or not this is true (and it probably is as indicated by well documented studies) is immaterial, as the Congressman was relating that which the experts had told him. And the Congressman should be commended for standing by his convictions and being better informed than the general public or liberal media. The real issue is that if you believe that life begins at conception and you have taken an oath to defend life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then you have to keep your focus on protecting all innocent life or risk multiplying one tragic situation into three. (Two for the mother and one for the baby.) The MRA commends Todd Akin for publicly stating that the child should not be punished for the sins of the father. That we are all endowed by our creator with Liberty and the pursuit of happiness has little meaning when deprived of life.
"The Republican leadership needs to grow a spine and disallow the Democrats, who always support their candidates even when they are wrong, to dictate our stance. By so doing we are now agreeing with the President that forcible rape and statutory rape are identical. While Todd may have been indiscreet in his word choice, he was not wrong in his facts. Todd can win despite this misstep. All Republicans will lose if they continue throwing their candidates under the bus because of a poor word choice. This is the first out, of the first inning in a long three months with many Democrat directed issues ahead. Issues and battles ahead which will be filled with lies and deception, for such are the tactics of our opponents. If we are unable to stand strong for our values it will be the Republican leadership that allows American exceptionalism to become a footnote in history."