Republicans are increasing pressure on Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) to drop out of the Missouri Senate race as concerns mount that his determination to continue could cost the GOP a seat and, ultimately, control of the upper chamber.
Party leaders, from National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRCC) Chairman Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTrump opens can of worms with blast at drugmakers Senators wrestle with whether to back Tillerson Senate takes first step toward repealing ObamaCare MORE (R-Texas) to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellJuan Williams: Race, Obama and Trump Schumer puts GOP on notice over ObamaCare repeal Right renews push for term limits as Trump takes power MORE (R-Ky.), along with prominent conservative bloggers, urged Akin to consider what was best for himself and the party.
Publicly, Cornyn released a carefully worded statement that urged Akin to "consider what is best."
"I recognize that this is a difficult time for him, but over the next twenty-four hours, Congressman Akin should carefully consider what is best for him, his family, the Republican Party, and the values that he cares about and has fought for throughout his career in public service," Cornyn said.
Shortly after, Crossroads GPS, the super-PAC co-founded by strategist Karl Rove that had already invested more than $5 million in the race, confirmed it would be pulling an undisclosed amount that they still had invested in Missouri, including an ad they had planned to run Wednesday.
Akin was considered one of the party's best chances of picking up a seat. Multiple polls showed him leading incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire McCaskillGOP must avoid Dems' mistakes when replacing ObamaCare Live coverage: Mattis confirmation hearing for Pentagon Mattis's views on women in combat takes center stage MORE (D-Mo.). Republicans need a net gain of four seats (if President Obama wins reelection) to take control of the upper chamber.
The six-term House lawmaker said repeatedly on Monday that he's remaining in the contest.
"I am in this race to win. We need a conservative Senate. Help me defeat Claire by donating," Akin tweeted on Monday afternoon with a link to donate to his campaign.
And he told conservative talk radio host Sean Hannity that he's in to stay, saying that he believes Missourians will move on from the issue.
"When people make a mistake and they are honest about it and say it was a mistake, I [think] they move on," he said.
His trouble began with widely-publicized comments he made during an interview with a local Fox affiliate that pregnancies from rape are rare because "the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down" in the case of a "legitimate rape." The comments quickly sparked backlash on Twitter and went national as Democrats worked to tie Akin to other members of the GOP.
In one of the earliest signs that Akin's comments could be trouble not only for the candidate, but for the Republican Party as a whole, Mitt Romney's campaign issued a statement on Sunday night that Romney and Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanSchumer puts GOP on notice over ObamaCare repeal GOP must avoid Dems' mistakes when replacing ObamaCare Trump, House GOP could clash over 'Buy America' MORE (R-Wis.) disagree with Akin, and that their administration wouldn't oppose abortion in instances of rape. Romney came out even more strongly against the comments in an interview on Monday morning, calling them "insulting" and "inexcusable."
Akin apologized during an interview with conservative talk radio host Mike Huckabee, clarifying that he meant "forcible," rather than "legitimate" rape. And he insisted that he understood women can get pregnant from rape but said stood by his comments that rape should not be legal even in such cases.
"I've really made a couple of serious mistakes here that were just wrong, and I need to apologize," he said in the interview.
But he also asserted that he is "not a quitter," and said "I have not yet begun to fight," defending what he called a case of "foot-in-mouth disease" and telling Huckabee that, because of the poor state of the economy, he needed to persist.
Akin's penchant for off-the-cuff comments like these made him Democrats' favored candidate to win the Missouri GOP primary. McCaskill faces an uphill battle in a state that leans red, and every poll thus far has given Akin a lead.
Democrats had hoped that other such comments, including his comparison of the federal student loan program to cancer and his call for an end to the federal student lunch program, would be too extreme for Missouri voters and undermine his chances to win the seat.
Those hopes may have gotten wings on Sunday. Democrats quickly latched on to the comments, with McCaskill tweeting Sunday night that she was "stunned" by his remarks. National party apparati, from the Democratic National Committee to the two campaign committees, are fundraising off or Akin's comments, with a letter from Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Patty MurrayPatty MurrayTrump health pick vows to sell off stocks to avoid conflicts Senate Dems end ObamaCare repeal protest after 5 hours DeVos confirmation hearing delayed MORE (D-Wash.) calling them "revolting."
President Obama was even asked about Akin's statement at an impromptu press conference on Monday. He called it offensive and noted that "rape is rape."
Most troublesome for Akin's campaign, however, were the increasing number of GOP lawmakers denouncing his remarks. McConnell, the GOP leader in the Senate, called the comments "wildly offensive."
"Although Representative Akin has apologized, I believe he should take time with his family to consider whether this statement will prevent him from effectively representing our party in this critical election," McConnell said, echoing Cornyn's statement.
Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), who is in a tough campaign against Democrat Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDems push for outside witnesses at Mnuchin hearing Schumer: GOP 'filling the swamp' by targeting ethics chief Confirm Inga Bernstein for the District of Massachusetts MORE, was the first lawmaker to call on Akin to withdraw as the GOP nominee. Sen. Ron JohnsonRon JohnsonRight renews push for term limits as Trump takes power Overnight Tech: Tech listens for clues at Sessions hearing | EU weighs expanding privacy rule | Senators blast Backpage execs Senate poised to confirm Trump's DHS pick after friendly hearing MORE (R-Wis.), a favorite of the Tea Party movement, also called on Akin to drop out.
And a number of influential conservative voices, including Erick Erickson of the conservative blog RedState and GOP strategist Richard Grenell, tweeted that Akin would be dropping out of the race Tuesday, although their comments were largely interpreted as a way of pressuring the congressman to drop out rather than a fact.
And Romney said in an interview with New Hampshire radio station WMUR that will air later on Monday that Akin should take a day to reassess his bid.
It's clear, though, from Akin's tweet, that he has no immediate plans to do so.
The initial deadline for a candidate to withdraw from the race is Tuesday at 5 p.m., but the final deadline, with a court order, is Sept. 25 by 5 p.m. The state party committee would then have to choose a new nominee within 28 days or by 5 p.m. on Oct. 12, whichever comes sooner.