(ST. LOUIS, M.O.) — Todd Akin’s message to Missouri: I’m staying in the race.
Akin, the sixth-term Republican congressman who is running for the U.S. Senate in Missouri, held his first news conference on Thursday after top Republicans heaped pressure on him to withdraw as a candidate following his controversial comments on rape and pregnancy.
“Apparently there are some people who are having trouble understanding my message,” Akin said during brief remarks at a press conference in St. Louis County, announced only hours before it began. “I’d like to be clear … today that we’re going to be here through the November election, and we’re going to be here to win.”
Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman and Texas Sen. John Cornyn and at least 10 other U.S. senators have asked Akin to withdraw.
Missouri GOP luminaries, including former senator Jack Danforth and former U.S. attorney general John Ashcroft, also have called on Akin to drop from the race.
Akin sparked the controversy last weekend by suggesting, in a local TV interview that cases of “legitimate rape” rarely result in pregnancy. Akin has since apologized in multiple radio interviews and in a TV ad released on Tuesday. Akin has also explained that by “legitimate” he was referring to forcible rape.
“You know, one of the things I’ve realized through the years: I may not be the favorite candidate of some people within the Republican establishment, but the voters make the decision,” Akin said. “This is an election. It’s not a selection.”
Akin said threats have been made against him and his family. The Capitol Police confirmed to media outlets this week that it was investigating them.
Akin sought to return to his campaign message, drawing a contrast between himself and incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.
“The America that I represent is an America that has more freedom and more jobs — an America with less bureaucracy, less big government, less taxes and a bright hope for the future,” he said. “The America that Claire McCaskill has given us is an America that has less freedom, less jobs, more big government and the same stalled economy.”
As Akin seeks to recover from the controversy, his fundraising will be closely watched and his campaign has launched an online fundraising drive to help the congressman fend off pressure to withdraw. Since launching the campaign, Akin has raised over $125,000, according to his website.
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Tal Kopan and Jeremy Diamond, CNN
Brian Stelter, CNN
Eric Bradner, Shimon Prokupecz and Dan Merica, CNN