(CBS News) Until today, few people outside of Missouri had ever heard of Todd Akin, the Republican candidate for Senate there, but Akin's remarks about rape have put him and the abortion issue in the national spotlight.
Republicans and Democrats alike, including Mitt Romney and President Obama, have condemned his comments. Members of Akin's own party are pressuring him to drop out as they battle to win back control of the Senate.
Todd Aiken's comments have been called insulting, wildly offensive and just plain wrong -- and that's been the reaction from Republicans. The question he faced was simple: Should abortion be legal in the case of rape?
"From what I understand from doctors - that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," Akin said.
Those two suggestions -- that women might spontaneously prevent conception, and that some rape might be legitimate -- combined to create a political earthquake. Akin apologized to rape victims for using the word legitimate, but by then the Republican leadership had deserted him.
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Mitt Romney called the comments "inexcusable." Party leaders like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested that Akin quit the race for Senate in Missouri, to consider in McConnells words, if "(the) statement will prevent him from effectively representing our party in this critical election."
Akin rejected the idea of quitting, insisting his anti-abortion positions are a strength not a weakness.
"I stuck to just basically our conservative principles and I have a sense that we're still a people of forgiveness, and when people make a mistake, and they're honest about it, and say it was a mistake, I believe they'll move on," Akin said about the growing firestorm.
Until yesterday Republicans were counting on Akin to defeat incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill, and to win back a Republican Senate majority. Now McCaskill has new life and she argues Akin has harmed Republican appeal to women.
"So I think when you start trying to split hairs around the subject of rape, it's offensive to women and it shows a blatant lack of understanding about the nature of the crime," McCaskill said.
Several Republican sources say Akin has been warned if he doesn't quit the race he will lose the party's financial support, at least $5 million the GOP has stashed to defeat McCaskill. Behind the scenes they're not asking Akin to step down, they're pressuring him to give way to another Republican candidate.
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