The first polls conducted after Republican Rep. Todd Akin's controversial comments about rape show the congressman with a slimmer lead over Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in the Missouri Senate race but still a viable candidate.
A poll by Public Policy Polling, released late Monday, shows Akin with 44 percent to 43 percent lead over McCaskill, who is seeking election to a second Senate term.
Meanwhile, a separate survey by Survey USA found 54 percent of Missourians believe Akin should quit the race - but 52 percent of Republican respondents said he should stay in the race.
In an interview aired on Sunday, Akin referred to "legitimate rape" and said that women rarely become pregnant by such an act. He spent Sunday and Monday apologizing for the remark and even released a new TV ad with a fresh apology.
Despite calls from national GOP leaders such as Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus and National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman John Cornyn, Akin has refused to withdraw from the race. He faces a 6 p.m. Tuesday deadline under state law to drop out.
In a sign of the damage control being coordinated by the GOP, Priebus appeared on CNN Monday night to publicly urge Akin not to attend next week's Republican National Convention in Tampa.
Neither Akin nor McCaskill is popular among Missouri voters, indicating that the race will likely stay tight up until Election Day. Fifty-eight percent of respondents in the PPP poll have an unfavorable view of Akin, while 53 percent have an unfavorable view of McCaskill.
Both McCaskill and Akin are using the controversy to raise funds. McCaskill's Web site is re-distributing Akin's comments, while Akin's new ad contains contact info for voters who wish to donate to his campaign.
At the White House on Monday, President Obama called Akin's comments "offensive" and said, "rape is rape" before ultimately tying the point to health care.
"The idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we're talking about doesn't make sense to the American people and certainly doesn't make sense to me," Obama said.
He added, "So what I think these comments do underscore is why we shouldn't have a bunch of politicians, a majority of whom are men, making health care decisions on behalf of women."
by RTT Staff Writer
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