The escalation came as GOP leaders met in Tampa ahead of next week’s presidential nominating convention. They adopted a broad antiabortion position that was silent on whether exceptions should be allowed in cases of rape or incest, the issues that set off the Akin controversy.
Missouri’s Republican Senate primary already served to pit several conservative constituencies against one another, as Christian evangelical leaders backed Akin and hard-line anti-spending conservatives supported his opponents.
Mitt Romney, the GOP’s presidential standard-bearer, joined a broad chorus of Republicans urging Akin to step aside for the good of his party. “Todd Akin’s comments were offensive and wrong, and he should very seriously consider what course would be in the best interest of our country,” Romney said.
But after two days of apologizing, Akin grew angry Tuesday, allowing a deadline to pass on an easier way to withdraw from the contest. The congressman made clear that he would not apologize for his belief that abortion should be illegal, even in cases of rape.
“I misspoke one word in one sentence in one day,” he said on a radio talk show hosted by former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. “I haven’t done anything that’s morally and ethically wrong.”
Tuesday evening, Akin tweeted: “I am #stillstanding. Will you stand with me?” He included a link to an online donation site.
The controversy began Sunday when a St. Louis television station aired an interview in which Akin was asked about his opposition to abortion, even if a woman becomes pregnant after being raped. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” he responded, adding that even if the woman became pregnant, “the punishment ought to be of the rapist and not attacking the child.”
The reaction from the Republican establishment was swift, and by Tuesday calls for Akin to step aside had increased from a trickle to a deluge.
Immediately after his appearance on Huckabee’s show, party leaders who had been sending Akin signals to quit the race left no doubt about where they stood.
“When the future of our country is at stake, sorry is not sufficient. To continue serving his country in the honorable way he has served throughout his career, it is time for Congressman Akin to step aside,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.).
A few hours later, Romney issued his statement calling on Akin to drop out. He was followed by Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, who reaffirmed plans to abandon a $5 million campaign for Akin. “If he continues with this misguided campaign, it will be without the support and resources of the NRSC,” said Brian Walsh, an NRSC spokesman.