Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) vowed to stay in Missouri's Senate race on Tuesday as a number of former Missouri senators, led by Missouri Republican Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntHouse approves bill to ease passage of debt limit hike McConnell faces GOP pushback on debt deal McConnell 'confident' 10 GOP senators will back debt deal MORE, called on him to exit.
But Akin told conservative talk radio host Mike Huckabee he's staying in the race.
"We are going to continue with this race for the U.S. Senate," he said Tuesday afternoon.
But Blunt and former Missouri Sens. John Ashcroft, Kit Bond, John Danforth and Jim Talent — all prominent names in the state — released a statement Tuesday calling on Akin to withdraw.
“We do not believe it serves the national interest for Congressman Todd Akin to stay in this race. The issues at stake are too big, and this election is simply too important. The right decision is to step aside," they said in the statement.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee issued a strongly-worded statement after Akin's radio interview, encouraging him to step aside.
“It should not be lost on anyone that some of the only voices not calling for Congressman Akin to do the right thing and step aside are Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillLobbying world Ex-Rep. Akin dies at 74 Republicans may regret restricting reproductive rights MORE and the leaders of the pro-abortion movement. Senator McCaskill knows that the only way she wins re-election is if Todd Akin is her opponent in November," NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh said in a statement. “We continue to hope that Congressman Akin will do the right thing for the values he holds dear, but there should be no mistake — if he continues with this misguided campaign, it will be without the support and resources of the NRSC.”
Adding to the pressure on Akin, late Tuesday afternoon presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney released a statement calling on the lawmaker to drop out.
"“As I said yesterday, Todd Akin's comments were offensive and wrong and he should very seriously consider what course would be in the best interest of our country. Today, his fellow Missourians urged him to step aside, and I think he should accept their counsel and exit the Senate race," Romney said.
Calls for Akin's removal from the race have escalated since comments he made on Sunday, that pregnancies from "legitimate rape" are rare because the female body has biological mechanisms to prevent such an outcome, caught fire across the nation, causing a number of prominent GOP lawmakers and candidates to distance themselves from his remarks.
GOP leadership has expressed concern that Akin could cost them one of their most likely pickups in November and, consequently, the majority in the Senate. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who said Tuesday she wanted Akin to remain as her opponent, was considered one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators but Akin's comments changed that perception.
Akin's campaign made a nearly $150,000 ad buy on Tuesday for an advertisement in which he apologizes for his remark, and has repeatedly said he will not drop out of the race.
He has until 5 p.m. to drop out of the race without further cost to his campaign.
— This story was updated at 4:03 p.m.