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Akin rejects calls to quit Missouri Senate race

By Dave Helling, The Kansas City Star –

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Rep. Todd Akin, a Republican, did not withdraw from the Missouri Senate race before the 5 p.m. CDT no-penalty deadline Tuesday, leaving him on the November ballot against Sen. Claire McCaskill, the Democrat.

Akin still has until Sept. 25 to officially withdraw, but now faces a court contest before he can accomplish it, as well as potential financial costs. After that date, he stays on the ballot no matter what.

But there was no indication Tuesday the embattled Republican would ever release his claim on the state’s GOP Senate nomination, won in a three-way primary Aug. 7.

Indeed, in the face of withering pressure from fellow Republicans — including presidential candidate Mitt Romney — Akin defiantly insisted throughout the day he would see the race to its conclusion.

“There’s a cause here. There’s a cause about the very heart about what America is,” he told one radio host Tuesday.

Akin has faced calls to withdraw since his comment Sunday to a St. Louis interviewer, in which he referred to “legitimate rape” and suggested pregnancy is rare after a sexual assault.

He has since apologized for those remarks, but Republicans across the country have said the statements critically damaged his candidacy.

Missouri is considered a key state in the battle for the Senate, and Akin critics said all day Tuesday that he should keep that in mind — and get out.

Five Missouri Republican senators — one in office, and four retired — urged Akin to quit. “We do not believe it serves the national interest for Congressman Todd Akin to stay in this race,” senators Roy Blunt, Jim Talent, John Ashcroft, Jack Danforth, and Kit Bond said in a statement. “The issues at stake are too big, and this election is simply too important. The right decision is to step aside.”

By late afternoon, Romney had endorsed that view. “Today, his fellow Missourians urged him to step aside, and I think he should accept their counsel and exit the Senate race,” he said in a statement.

Earlier, representatives of major independent Republican committees renewed their promise to take their campaign cash out of the state if Akin remained the nominee.

“There should be no mistake,” said a statement from the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “If he continues with this misguided campaign, it will be without the support and resources of the NRSC.”

A statement from American Crossroads: “Rep. Akin faces a simple choice: Will he help Democrats hold the McCaskill seat and potentially the Senate majority by staying in the race, or will he help Republicans defeat Barack Obama’s most reliable ally in the Senate by getting out?”

Republican operatives in Missouri said the six-term congressman now faces an enormous challenge against the incumbent, McCaskill. As of mid-July, she had $3 million more cash-on-hand than did Akin, with prospects of raising more.

Akin, by contrast, is losing fundraising chances by the day. With ten weeks to go before the election, he would need to raise roughly $300,000 a week to catch up with McCaskill, assuming she doesn’t raise another dime.

Nevertheless, Akin released a commercial early Tuesday apologizing again for the comments about rape. Ad buys for next week in the Kansas City market remain on the books.

Akin could not be reached for comment. McCaskill did not release a statement after the deadline.

A new poll released Tuesday showed Akin leading McCaskill by 1 percent, although some Republicans said they thought the results reflected Democrats’ desire to keep Akin in the race.

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