Republican Representative Todd Akin left open the possibility that he might drop out of the Missouri Senate race last night, continued to defy “party bosses” who want him to quit after controversial comments on rape and abortion.
“I’m never going to say everything that could possibly happen. I don’t know the future,” Akin said, opening the door to a possible exit from the race.
Akin apologised in multiple television interviews yesterday for his comments on Sunday, but said he intended to remain in the race to promote his anti-abortion beliefs and to respect the wishes of Missouri voters.
“The people of Missouri chose me, and I don’t believe it’s right for party bosses to decide to override those voters,” Akin said. “It makes me uncomfortable to think that the party bosses are going to dictate who runs, as opposed to the election process.”
Republican leaders, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney, have called for Akin to leave the Senate race against Democrat Claire McCaskill over his remarks that victims of “legitimate rape” can naturally avoid pregnancy.
A backlash over the comments has dominated campaigning for the Nov 6 election, energising Democrats and testing Romney’s control over his party a week before the national convention to formally nominate him for the presidency.
The controversy has set off a firestorm over abortion and other social issues that distracts from the jobs-oriented economic message Romney and his vice-presidential running mate, Paul Ryan, want to send to moderate independent voters.
Ryan distanced himself from Akin yesterday, calling Akin’s comment that “legitimate rape” would not result in pregnancy “outrageous”.
“Rape is rape,” Ryan said, echoing President Barack Obama’s comment on the issue on Monday.
Ryan and Akin have co-sponsored anti-abortion legislation in Congress that included a call for a classification of some rapes but not others as “forcible”.
Romney has said his administration would back rape exceptions to anti-abortion laws, which Ryan has not.
Ryan declined specific comment when asked if he had changed his position. He said he was “proud of my pro-life record, but Mitt Romney is at the top of the ticket”.
Republicans fear the Akin episode could prevent them from winning in Missouri, lessening their chances of picking up the net four seats they need ensure winning a majority in the 100-member Senate.
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