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By JIM SALTER, Associated Press

COLUMBIA, MO (AP) - Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill and Republican congressman Todd Akin are squaring off in their first Senate race debate, and it didn't take long for Akin's comments on rape and abortion to divide the candidates.

Akin said in a TV interview last month that women can avoid pregnancy in cases of what he called "legitimate rape."

Asked at Friday's debate about how the comments had changed the race, Akin tried to deflect the issue by saying the race was "not about words" but two opposing voting records on jobs and the economy.

McCaskill repeated her support for abortion rights and said Akin's comments "opened the window" to his views.

Akin apologized after the rape comments, but he's lost support among Republicans, including Senate leaders and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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