JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin won two high-profile Republican endorsements Wednesday, a day after guaranteeing his candidacy would continue despite calls for him to quit because of comments about rape and pregnancy he since has apologized for.
Former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum and Sen. Jim DeMint, a tea party favorite, announced support for Akin's challenge to Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. They called Akin a "principled conservative" -- the same phrase Akin uses to describe himself at campaign events.
"If Republicans are to win back the Senate and stop President Obama's liberal agenda, we must defeat Sen. Claire McCaskill in Missouri," Santorum and DeMint said in a joint statement. They added: "We support Todd Akin and hope freedom-loving Americans in Missouri and around the country will join us so we can save our country from fiscal collapse."
Santorum easily won Missouri's nonbinding Republican presidential primary in February.
Akin had faced pressure to quit the campaign after a TV interview aired Aug. 19 in which he said women's bodies have a natural defense against pregnancy in cases of what he called "legitimate rape."
Tuesday was the deadline for Missouri candidates to get a court order to withdraw from the Nov. 6 ballot. Akin let the deadline pass and instead embarked on a statewide bus tour.
Akin repeatedly has apologized for the rape comment, but lost support from top national Republicans, including presidential nominee Mitt Romney. The Republican National Committee, the campaign apparatus for GOP senators and Crossroads, a group affiliated with Republican strategist Karl Rove, all dropped their involvement in Missouri's Senate race -- eliminating millions of dollars of advertising that could have aided Akin.
The six-term congressman from suburban St. Louis has been trying to rebuild his campaign through online fundraising appeals and an anti-establishment message. He has been aided throughout by former Republican presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker. Gingrich headlined a fundraiser for Akin this week.
As the dropout deadline passed, McCaskill began running an ad in Missouri highlighting Akin's comment about rape, alongside previous comments he made that were critical of Social Security, Medicare, the federal minimum wage and federally financed student loans.
By DAVID A. LIEB