The Republican chorus for Rep. Todd Akin, the party's nominee in the highly contested Missouri Senate contest, to get out of the race is getting louder by the hour. The loudest singers are the GOP's top leadership.
NBC reported that Mitt Romney Running mate Paul Ryan, who serves with Akin on the House Budget Committee, which Ryan chairs, called the congressman to urge him to consider bowing out. He is just one among many.
Akin has been insistent that he will remain in the race. In an apology statement an hour ago, he said, “Just because somebody makes a mistake doesn’t make them useless. We need a conservative in the United States Senate, and I am running to replace Claire McCaskill," he said referring to the Democratic Senate incumbent, "and get our country back on track.”
A widespread sense of panic appears to have taken hold inside the GOP since yesterday as they consider the political fallout of Akin's remarks.
In a television interview Sunday, Akin, a conservative congressman from suburban St. Louis, was asked about his view on abortion. He has been a long-time foe.
“From what I understand from doctors, that's really rare," said Akin said of whether rapes result in pregnancy. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume maybe that didn't work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist."
The reaction was immediate, sparking outrage among Democrats and women’s groups, and concern in GOP circles that he had damaged the party's best chance of unseating a Democrat.
Senn. McCaskill tweeted yesterday: “As a woman & former prosecutor who handled 100s of rape cases, I’m stunned by Rep Akin’s comments about victims..."
Beating her is pivotal to the party's hopes for capturing the Senate. Most observers view the Show-Me State as the GOP's best shot.
But it's not just Missouri that could be affected by the political blow-back. Republicans are running against women Democrats in several Senate races around the country this year, including Nevada, Wisconsin and Massachusetts. The gender gap as far as women voters favors the Democrats. Democrats have been pressing issue for months that Republicans support policies that hurt women. In close races, that advantage could be important.
Various names are being floated as potential replacements should Akin step down, including Republican Reps. Jo Ann Emerson and Sam Graves, who both considered taking on McCaskill running, but passed. Missouri state Auditor Tom Schweich has been mentioned, as well as the two GOP hopefuls who lost to Akin: Sarah Steelman and John Brunner.
Former Sen. Jim Talent, who McCaskill unseated in 2006, is also in the mix. But he's a close Romney foreign policy advisor and in line for a top a post in his administration, should the GOP contender win.
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who chairs the Republican Senate campaign committee, said in a statement:
“Congressman Akin’s statements were wrong, offensive, and indefensible,” Cornyn said. “I recognize that this is a difficult time for him, but over the next twenty-four hours, Congressman Akin should carefully consider what is best for him, his family, the Republican Party, and the values that he cares about and has fought for throughout his career in public service."
Cornyn's group, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, a campaign arm of the Republican National Committee, will reportedly not spend $5 million it has set aside for the race if Akin stays in.
Asked whether Akin should withdraw after just winning the nomination earlier this month, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus told The Washington Post: “It was a moment of stupidity, that’s for sure. He’s got to get on it. He’s got to think about it.”
Senate Minorityl Leader Mitch McConnell said: "What he said is just flat wrong in addition to being wildly offensive to any victim of sexual abuse. 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.”
Of key importance was a report from Politico that Crossroads, an independent campaign spending group, which has been shelling out millions to beat Democrats in Senate contests around the country – and which has targeted McCaskill for defeat - is pulling out of the state.
Romney, the presumptive presidential standard-bearer and Ryan distanced themselves from the remarks on Sunday. Romney supports abortion in cases of rape.
In an interview Monday with National Review Online, he said, "Congressman's Akin comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong. Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive."
President Obama weighed in at his press conference today, calling Akin's remarks "way out there."
He said "the views expressed were offensive. Rape is rape. And the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we're talking about doesn't make sense to the American people -- and certainly does not make sense to me. What I think these comments do underscore is why we shouldn't have a bunch of politicians, a majority of whom are men, making health care decision on behalf of women."