There are still a few pockets of support for congressman Todd Akin in conservative U.S. politics, despite his controversial remarks on abortion and rape.
Akin, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Claire McCaskill, has apologized for his comment that pregnancy could be prevented in cases of "legitimate rape" because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
Christian conservative leaders, and some of Akin's fellow Republicans, came out in his defense.
Conservative Republican Representative Steve King of Iowa, posted a tweet on his congressional website Tuesday saying, "The leftist media, paid in ca$h by George Soros, is dictating the response of leading Republicans. How can the American Dream survive?"
King told KMEG-TV in Iowa on Monday that Akin is "a strong Christian man, with a wonderful family" and said the election should be about Akin's record.
"I'm seeing the same thing, petty personal attacks substituting for strong policy," he said, adding that pregnancies from rape are "really rare," in an interview circulated by the Democratic National Committee.
Tim Wildmon, president of the conservative American Family Association, said in a statement that the controversy had been overblown and should be forgotten, since Akin has apologized.
"Even if he is medically incorrect, still, that is irrelevant to the issues of life that may come before him for a vote should he be elected to the U.S. Senate," he said.
"I'm a little stunned at the piling on against Congressman Akin over what clearly is a simple misuse of the English language," he said.
Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council Action, said Akin's comments were inappropriate and indefensible, but his group still supports Akin because of his long-term anti-abortion positions.
"I have known Congressman Akin for nearly a decade. My personal experience with Todd along with his record make clear his compassion and commitment for the sanctity of life, the foundation of the family and the well-being of all Americans," Perkins said.
Akin, while apologizing for his wording, has not stepped away from his staunch opposition to abortion in all cases, and said on Tuesday he will not leave the Senate race, despite pressure to get out from fellow Republicans -- including presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
He said in a radio interview on Tuesday that he would not step away from his anti-abortion position.
"I said one word in one sentence on one day, and everything changed," Akin said in an interview with Mike Huckabee, another favorite of social conservatives. "I believe the defense of the unborn and a deep respect for life....They are not things to run away from."
Akin said he would stay in the race against McCaskill, who has been a close ally of Democratic President Barack Obama's, because he represents a conservative movement that must be heard.
John Putnam, Missouri state coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, rose to the defense of Akin on Tuesday blaming Republicans for not “circling the wagons around him and getting him through this.”
Appearing on Istook Live (www.istook.com), Putnam said he was instrumental in urging Akin to make his Senate bid in the first place and told host Ernest Istook, “I don’t think there’s a more principled person in Congress than Todd is.”
Putnam, who is also the Republican Party chairman of Jasper County, ranked Akin as the 21st most conservative member of Congress during his six terms in the lower chamber.
“I thought we had died and gone to heaven when he got the nomination,” said Putnam, who acknowledged that it is becoming increasingly difficult for the suburban St. Louis legislator to stay in the Senate race against incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill.
“No question that things are rapidly deteriorating in terms of his ability to stay in the race. I hold the party somewhat responsible, mostly responsible for not pulling behind him the way the Democrats support their guys when they make a gaffe,” explained Putnam.
The GOP needs to pick up four seats to take control of the Senate should Obama win re-election, but only three should Romney win since his GOP vice president would break the tie.
Of those seats up for grabs, Akin had been seen on the short list of the GOP’s best opportunities and he had been leading McCaskill in recent days, with an average 5-point spread. One poll had him 11 points ahead of McCaskill.
“Todd’s comments were not inaccurate if a person knew what he meant. He didn’t get much of a chance to explain them and unfortunately hasn’t taken a very good tack in explaining,” insisted Putnam, who said Akin is “almost over-apologizing” and “the money folks in the party and the party leaders are just throwing him under the bus in nothing flat.”
If Akin drops out of the race, Putnam estimated that 35 to 40 percent of the conservative pro-life community in Missouri will blame “party operatives in Missouri” who “instead of circling the wagons around him and getting him through this, they bailed on him immediately. I’m not sure that they [the conservative pro-life community] will come to the election under these circumstances.”
Putnam refused to join most of the establishment GOP in calling on Akin to pull out of the race, which becomes much more difficult following Tuesday’s 6 p.m. deadline at the 11-week mark before the election. If Akin decides to quit at a later date he would have to go before a judge and pay for the reprinting of ballot papers.
“Folks are giving up pretty fast and I can’t talk with enough of them to change all their minds,” Putnam said. “I’m discouraged at this point on how it’s going to turn out. I don’t think Todd’s going to pull out. I was on the phone with his wife and his son yesterday; I think they’re staying in.”
He added that the only way for Akin to “get the funds and resources he needs” absent GOP support would be “if the pro-life community gets behind him and makes this a national campaign instead of state.”
© 2023 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.