Poll: Mo. voters want Akin to stay in

The storm over Rep. Todd Akin's (R-Mo.) "legitimate rape" comments might be passing, as a majority of likely voters in Missouri say the congressman should stay in the race against Sen. Claire McCaskill.

new poll from the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP) puts the race at a dead heat, with McCaskill barely edging Akin 45 percent to 44 percent. That's only a slight shift from a PPP poll last week that showed Akin ahead by a one-point margin.

However, a nonpartisan poll out last week from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch showed Akin down nine percentage points from McCaskill, a reversal of a July poll from the paper that put him ahead by five percentage points.

Fifty-four percent of voters in the PPP poll said Akin should stay in the race, compared to only 37 percent who said he should withdraw.

Akin spent much of the past week apologizing for what he's called using "the wrong word at the wrong time," and 53 percent of voters polled said they accept that apology, with 77 percent of Republicans saying the same.

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And while Akin is still seen unfavorably by 56 percent of voters, his favorability numbers jumped 9 percentage points since the last poll, to 33 percent, indicating voters might be ready to move on.

A majority of voters say they do not approve of the job McCaskill is doing, indicating that even if Akin gave the McCaskill campaign a gift with his statements, she still has a steep climb ahead to convince undecided and independent voters to back her. Only 11 percent of Republicans in the poll said they'd vote for McCaskill.

Akin's comments, that pregnancy is rare in cases of "legitimate rape" because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," sparked a firestorm of outrage from Republicans nationwide. Prominent members of the party, all the way up to GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, called for Akin's resignation from the nomination, for fear he had made himself unelectable and thus would ruin the party's chances at taking the majority in the Senate come fall.

But Akin persisted, remaining in the race and ratcheting up his grassroots fundraising efforts. He also released two television ads in the state on Wednesday.

The PPP poll was conducted among 621 likely Missouri voters from Aug. 28-29 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

--This post was published at 12:34 p.m. and updated at 4:30 p.m.