Missouri's besieged Republican Senate candidate, Rep. Todd Akin, blitzed the national morning TV shows Wednesday, portraying his decision to stay in the race as one of "principle."
"This is not about me. It's not about my ego, it's about the voters of the state of Missouri" who chose him as the nominee in this summer's primary, he said on NBC's "Today" show as he explained why he had rejected pleas from party leaders to quit the race. The choice of a candidate should be made by voters, not "party bosses," he said.
Republicans from presidential hopeful Mitt Romney to local officials in Missouri have urged Akin to quit the race after his comments on Sunday that victims of "legitimate rape" were highly unlikely to become pregnant. In his interviews, Akin once again apologized for the remarks.
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Akin's comments put a highly unfavorable spotlight on a stand -- opposition to abortion in cases of rape -- that many Republican officials share, but which most voters oppose.
Party leaders fear that Akin now cannot win in Missouri, where Republicans had strong hopes of defeating incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. A loss there could leave the Senate with a Democratic majority.
Beyond that, party leaders worry that making the issue of abortion in rape cases more prominent, particularly in the context in which Akin presented it, could hurt Republican candidates in close races elsewhere.
Akin confirmed that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the GOP's designated candidate for vice president, was among those who personally urged him to quit the race. Ryan also opposes abortion in rape cases, although Romney does not.
Akin said he had rejected the suggestion to quit because his quest for the Senate is "about trying to do the right thing and standing on principle." Among those principles, he said, was being "pro-life."
He admitted that he had been "misinformed," when he said that a woman's body can "shut down" a pregnancy that results from rape. But he added that while he apologized for that, "I don't apologize for the fact that I'm strong" in his antiabortion stand.
In an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America," Akin insisted that he could still beat McCaskill, citing her "pro-abortion" views and support for Democratic economic policies.
Although Tuesday was the deadline for a candidate to simply drop off Missouri's ballot, many Republican leaders still hope Akin will change his mind and quit. Under state law, he could do so by petitioning a court up until Sept. 25.
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