(WASHINGTON) — Pressure mounted on Rep. Todd Akin to quit his Missouri Senate race on Monday despite his repeated refusals to step down over his incendiary comments about rape.
Earlier in the day, moderate Republicans campaigning in bitterly contested battle ground states called on Akin to exit the race. By late in the afternoon, conservative elements of the party, including an influential super PAC and the Tea Party Express, called on him to terminate his race for the good of the party.
Tea Party Express Chairman Amy Kremer said Akin’s remarks that women rarely became pregnant from “legitimate rape” were “unfortunate and inappropriate” and added that they had become a distraction that would cost Republicans the chance to beat Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill and ultimately any chance at winning the Senate.
“It is critical that we defeat Senator Claire McCaskill in November, but it will be too difficult to achieve that with Todd Akin as the conservative alternative. He should step down and give conservatives a chance at taking back the Senate in November,” Kremer said in a statement.
The legal deadline for Akin to withdraw his name from the ballot is 6 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday.
Akin, a Republican, insisted on Mike Huckabee’s radio show Monday that he is staying in the race despite the furor over his comments that rape victims rarely get pregnant.
“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” he said on Sunday.
Akin apologized for the remark on Monday and told Huckabee that he was “not a quitter,” and still hoped to defeat McCaskill.
“I’ve really made a couple of serious mistakes here that were just wrong, and I need to apologize for those,” he said.
“Let me be clear,” Akin added. “Rape is never legitimate. It’s an evil act that’s committed by violent predators. I used the wrong words in the wrong way.”
When asked by Huckabee to clarify what he meant by “legitimate rape,” Akin said, “I was talking about forcible rape and it was absolutely the wrong word.”
CNN’s Piers Morgan tweeted on Monday that Akin, the “biggest name of the day,” was to appear live on Piers Morgan Tonight Monday night. Morgan’s show, however, opened at 9 p.m. with a shot of an empty chair.
Morgan said Akin’s communications adviser agreed to book the interview and then pulled out “at the last possible moment … leaving us and you looking at an empty chair.” Morgan said that Akin is still welcome to appear on the show, or be “what we would call in England a gutless, little twerp.”
After Akin insisted on staying in the race, the powerful and well-funded conservative super PAC American Crossroads, founded by former President George W. Bush’s aide Karl Rove, pulled funding for his campaign — an attempt to exert pressure on him to quit or a tacit acknowledgement that he will now likely lose.
American Crossroads told ABC News that they “will not be spending in Missouri moving forward.” The group had spent $5.4 million and they had reserved at least $2.3 million more for the Missouri election.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Stephen Collinson and MJ Lee, CNN
Cimaron Neugebauer, KUTV
Brian Stelter, CNN