August 25, 2012 8:55:07 PM
CHESTERFIELD, Mo. -- Bolstered by thousands of small individual donations, embattled Republican Congressman Todd Akin reaffirmed his commitment to his U.S. Senate campaign Friday while re-emerging publicly in Missouri for the time since making inflammatory remarks about rape and pregnancy.
Akin held a brief, tightly controlled news conference in the St. Louis suburb of Chesterfield after returning from Florida where he had been meeting with leading conservatives as he seeks to revive his campaign against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. His staff limited reporters to five questions and, as he has done repeatedly in recent days, Akin again rejected calls from top Republicans to drop out of the race.
"Apparently there are some people who are having trouble understanding our message, and I'd like to be clear on that today," Akin said. "We're going to be here through the November election, and we're going to be here to win."
After winning the GOP primary in August, Akin had gained quick backing from national Republican and conservative groups focused on ousting McCaskill. But that support withered after Akin was asked in an interview that aired Sunday on a St. Louis television station whether his general opposition to abortion extended to women who have been raped.
"From what I understand from doctors, that's really rare," Akin said of a woman becoming pregnant from rape. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
Akin did not specifically address those remarks in Friday's news conference, nor was he asked about them. Instead, he sought to shift the attention back to his campaign against McCaskill, saying he stood for more freedom, more jobs and less bureaucracy than the incumbent Democrat. Staff members said Akin would resume normal campaigning next week, though they did not give specifics.
During the past week, Akin has apologized repeatedly on national radio and TV shows while acknowledging his original remarks were wrong. He's also run a 30-second apology ad on TV stations across the state.
But he remained largely out of sight in Missouri until Friday. He went to Ohio to film his apology ad at the office of his media strategist. Then he went to Florida, where he met with fellow conservatives who had gathered before the Republican National Convention.
Missouri State University communication professor Elizabeth Dudash said Akin could re-start his campaign by appearing before relatively friendly audiences.
"If he just hides in the bunker," she said, "there's no way you're going to win."
The chairman of the Republican National Committee had urged Akin to quit the Senate race, as did presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, his vice presidential pick Paul Ryan and every living Republican who has represented Missouri in the Senate. Akin also has lost the financial support for the political arm of Senate Republicans and of some powerful interest groups, such as the Crossroads organization that is affiliated with Republican strategist Karl Rove.
"I may not be the favorite candidate of some people within the Republican establishment," Akin said during the news conference. "But the voters made a decision and this is an election, it's not a selection."
Akin also sent out a new fundraising plea Friday with a goal of increasing online contributions to $212,000 by the end of the day. It referenced his continued backing from former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, the most prominent public figure to stand by Akin's side.
"Your recent support gave me the courage I needed to fight on, thank you for standing with me, and supporting my campaign to defeat Claire McCaskill," Akin said in the fundraising message.
Associated Press writers Lieb and Chris Blank contributed to this report from Jefferson City, Mo.