Missouri conservatives say they are rallying around U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin despite his controversial comments about rape because they are outraged that “establishment” Republican Party leaders tried to railroad him out of the race.
A backlash has set in here in Akin’s suburban St. Louis congressional district, where supporters said the national party had no right to attempt to force out a duly-elected candidate.
Backers described Akin as the “real deal,” a politician fiercely committed to their social causes such as opposition to abortion, and to the Tea Party drive to downsize government.
Akin, 65, has defied widespread calls, including from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, to step aside after he said women’s bodies have natural defenses against pregnancy from “legitimate rape.”
The uproar knocked Romney’s campaign off message days before the Republican National Convention, and major party paymasters pulled millions of dollars in campaign advertising for Akin.
The gaffe has put at risk what was considered a likely Republican pickup of a Democratic-held seat in a state becoming more conservative. Republicans need a net gain of four seats in the November election to ensure they gain a Senate majority.
“At first I felt (Akin’s comments) were offensive to women and insulting to my intelligence,” said Lisa Payne-Naeger, a member of the conservative Missouri Grassroots Coalition, who has an online political radio show. “What changed it for me was the Republican establishment’s effort to chop him off at the knees and install one of their own in the race.”
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