published Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Tennessee GOP mum on Akin’s decision to stay in Missouri race


by Chris Carroll
  • photo
    Missouri Republican Senate candidate, Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., speaks while surrounded by supporters during a news conference at the start of a statewide bus tour, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012, in St. Louis. Akin is hoping that donors displeased by his much-criticized remarks about rape will reopen their checkbooks.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Poll
Should Rep. Akin drop out of the race?
  • Yes. 61%
  • No. 39%

419 total votes.

Five weeks after his comments about “legitimate rape,” Tuesday marked the last day for U.S. Rep. Todd Akin to leave Missouri’s Senate race through a court order.

He didn’t, and Akin’s Republican colleagues from Tennessee don’t appear to be thrilled. But they’re not among the many Republicans publicly clamoring for a new candidate in a must-win race for GOP control of the Senate.

In an Aug. 19 interview with a Missouri news station, Akin brought abortion to the forefront when he said pregnancy arising from rape “is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down.”

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, a physician from Jasper, Tenn., was the most forceful in his denunciations of Akin, releasing a statement that said “there is no medical basis that could or should have led anyone to make such insensitive statements.”

But in a follow-up interview last week, DesJarlais hedged on the political question over whether Akin should leave the race.

“I don’t know him real well,” he said. “That statement was really off-base and inappropriate, but it’s ultimately up to the voters in Missouri and Rep. Akin to decide what’s best for him.”

Once seen as a safe seat for Republicans, polls have shown the Missouri race tilting back toward the incumbent, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., despite a subsequent apology from Akin. McCaskill holds a strong money advantage over Akin, whose Washington, D.C.-based fundraising has dried up.

Asked through spokesmen last week whether Akin should step aside, Sen. Bob Corker declined comment altogether and Sen. Lamar Alexander said Akin’s statements about rape “were completely inappropriate and wrong.”

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann was equally circumspect. When the comments aired, a spokesman said Chattanooga’s congressman felt that Akin’s remarks were “flat-out wrong and not factual,” but on Monday Fleischmann would not discuss whether Akin should stay in the Senate race.

“These are decisions I think that Mr. Akin and the people of Missouri need to make,” Fleischmann said.

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