US Senate candidate refuses to quit over rape comments

Republican Senate candidate from Missouri, Todd Akin. Photo: Reuters

The Republican Senate candidate from Missouri, Todd Akin, is in the midst of an extraordinary political storm that has his party in a state of near-panic.

It all began with a stunningly inept interview Akin gave to a local TV network.

He was asked if he would support abortions for women who have been raped.

Akin replied: “It seems to me, first of all, 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.”

Legitimate rape? The female body has a way of neutralising the sperm of a rapist?

The howls of protest have come from Republicans and Democrats alike but for different reasons.

Republicans fear that their Senate candidate from Missouri - already known as a right-wing maverick - has contaminated the party's carefully calibrated branding on the eve of their Convention.

More worrying still, Akin is regarded as in lock-step on the issue of abortion with another Congressman, Paul Ryan.

They even co-sponsored a House bill on the issue. And of course Ryan has just been chosen as the Vice Presidential candidate.

Democrats are outraged and delighted. Outraged because they think Akin's words weren't a gaffe at all, but a glimpse into what he really thinks.

And delighted because they see the comments as the perfect way to cement their support among swing women voters, one of the key targets for both campaigns.

The best news of all for Democrats is that in the last hour Todd Akin has made clear that despite the howls of protest across the political spectrum he is staying in the race.