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GOP leader McConnell suggests Todd Akin consider his options

August 20, 2012|By Lisa Mascaro

WASHINGTON -- As the deadline approaches for candidate withdrawals from the Missouri Senate race, the GOP leader in the Senate became the latest high-ranking official to suggest that Todd Akin  consider whether his recent comments on “legitimate rape” will impede his campaign for the office.

“What he said is just flat wrong in addition to being wildly offensive to any victim of sexual abuse,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader. “Although Representative 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.” 

Under election rules in Missouri, the deadline is 5 p.m. Tuesday for candidates to withdraw from the Senate race without a court order. The state party would have until Sept. 18 to select another candidate.

Sources said GOP officials may be considering replacement candidates beyond the other two Republicans who were defeated by Akin in last month’s hard-fought primary: John Brunner and  Sarah Steelman.

Former Republican Sen. Jim Talent, who was defeated in 2006 and has long been a top party choice for the seat, said Monday that he was not interested.

"If nominated I will not run," Talent said Monday from Tampa, Fla.  

The top GOP campaign chairman, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, spoke to Akin on Monday afternoon and conveyed the party’s concern. The committee will not invest in Akin’s campaign, despite having $5 million in ad time reserved for the fall, an official said. Cornyn said the congressman should consider his next move.

“It has been communicated to the congressman from the committee that by staying in this race, he is putting not just this seat but the GOP’s prospects for a Senate majority at great risk,” said the official from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, who requested anonymity in discussing private talks.  “And if he does choose to go forward, the NRSC will not be investing in his candidacy.”

After Tuesday, a candidate can still withdraw with a court order for removal from the ballot. But that would certainly complicate the campaign, and the state party would have 28 days to choose a replacement, but no later than Oct. 12.

Akin, a six-term congressman, came under fire this weekend as he explained his opposition to abortion and suggested that that pregnancies in cases of rape are “really rare.”

"If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” Akin said in the interview with KTVI-TV. Akin showed little interest Monday in stepping down, as our colleagues reported, during his interview on the Mike Huckabee radio show.

“I’ve not yet begun to fight,” Akin said on the program. But supporters are backing away, and the powerful American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS are also pulling ad support, our colleagues reported.

Akin has said he misspoke when giving “off-the-cuff remarks” over the weekend.

"I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue,” Akin said Sunday. “But I believe deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action.”

The Missouri contest had been the GOP’s best chance to knock off a Democratic incumbent this fall, as the party tries to unseat Sen. Claire McCaskill and retake the majority.

Analysts said Monday that it would be difficult for Akin to recover from the misstep, even among Republican voters, because of his comments on rape.

Paul West, in Tampa, Fla., contributed to this report.

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lisa.mascaro@latimes.com

Twitter: @LisaMascaroinDC

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