Blunt backs Akin's Senate bid after exit deadline passes

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) announced his support for Rep. Todd Akin's (R-Mo.) Senate bid after the deadline passed for Akin to exit the race.

In a statement released late Tuesday night, Blunt, a venerable figure in Missouri politics and the GOP establishment in Washington, flipped on his earlier call for Akin to exit the race.

"Congressman Akin and I don’t agree on everything, but he and I agree the Senate majority must change. From Gov. Romney to the county courthouse, I'll be working for the Republican ticket in Missouri, and that includes Todd Akin," he said in the statement.

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After comments Akin made, that pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape" are rare because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," Blunt was one of numerous Missouri politicians who spoke with Akin privately to try to convince him to drop out of the race. He also signed onto a statement issued by a number of prominent former Missouri senators urging Akin to step down.

“The issues at stake are too big, and this election is simply too important. The right decision is to step aside,” the statement said.

At the time, Mitt Romney also asked Akin to step down, and numerous Republican groups, including the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Crossroads GPS, pulled funds from the race, all due to concern that Akin had essentially lost in August what looked to be a likely pickup for Republicans in November.

But as Akin has persisted, he's begun to collect a small trickle of conservative supporters, most prominently Newt Gingrich, who appeared with Akin at a fundraiser on Monday, and Mike Huckabee.

Now that the deadline, which was 5 p.m. Central Time on Tuesday, has passed, more Republicans might follow Blunt's lead and publicly back Akin. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has indicated that he might be willing to support the candidate, and a representative for his PAC said Monday they're considering pouring funds into the race.

But Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) indicated during an appearance on MSNBC's "The Last Word" that she doesn't believe the race is won yet, despite Akin's decision to stay in.

And she framed the race as a choice between her own moderate record and Akin's more extreme past, an argument she's made previously in ads and on the stump. During the show she highlighted a number of what she portrayed as his extreme stances, including his position against hate-crime legislation and a registry for sex offenders.

But the Senate race in Missouri goes further than just policy positions, she said.

"I don't think the problem is what Todd said. The problem is what Todd believes. That is really the essence of this race. What are his beliefs? And his beliefs, I believe, are such that Missourians — honestly ... his beliefs would be painful for Missouri families," she said.

— This story was updated at 9:53 a.m.