(CNN) - Republicans began distancing themselves from U.S. Rep. Todd Akin late Sunday and Monday after the Missouri congressman and candidate for Senate claimed "legitimate rape" rarely resulted in pregnancy.
Akin was explaining his opposition to abortion even in cases of rape, a viewpoint he shares with other conservative members of the Republican Party, including Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Mitt Romney's vice presidential running mate.
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A spokeswoman for Romney's campaign released a statement indicating the presumptive GOP nominee and his running mate disagreed with Akin's remarks, which were made in an interview with KTVI.
"Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin's statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape," Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg wrote.
And Romney himself, in an interview with the National Review Online, said that Akin's "comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong."
"Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive," Romney said, adding: "I have an entirely different view. What he said is entirely without merit and he should correct it."
The Romney-Ryan campaign says the Wisconsin lawmaker has long personally maintained an opposition to abortion in all cases except when the life of the mother is at risk. However, he has supported legislation that would allow exceptions for pregnancy in the case of rape, incest, or when a mother's life is at risk.
Ryan co-sponsored a bill in the House last year that bestowed "personhood" rights on fertilized embryos, which would allow states or Congress to determine the legality of abortions.
A Romney campaign official said that the House Budget chairman's personal view remain unchanged, but that the position of the ticket reflected Romney's stance - that abortion should be legal in cases of rape.
Akin, who won a three-way GOP primary earlier this month to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in November's general election, said Sunday that he "misspoke" when he made the comments on "legitimate rape," though he maintained his opposition to abortion in all cases.
Brian Walsh, the communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, wrote in an e-mail that "Congressman Akin did the right thing by quickly correcting the record and acknowledging that he misspoke."
Walsh said the election would be a referendum on McCaskill's voting record and support for the president's agenda.
Fellow Republicans, however, began distancing themselves from Akin, an indication of how harmful his remarks are being regarded by members of his own party.
"As a pro-life conservative, a husband, and a father of two young women, I find Representative Akin's remarks to be offensive and reprehensible," Rep. Dennis Rehberg of Montana, also running for U.S. Senate, wrote in a statement Sunday. "There is no such thing as a 'legitimate rape.' I condemn Representative Akin's statements in the strongest possible terms."
Sarah Steelman, the former state treasurer who was among Akin's challengers for the GOP Senate nomination in Missouri, also decried his remarks, writing on Twitter, "Todd Akin's remarks about 'legitimate rape' were inexcusable, insulting and embarrassing to the GOP."
Steelman lost to Akin in a three-way race for the GOP Senate nomination in Missouri at the beginning of August. She lagged far behind her competitors in terms of fund-raising, but gained national attention after receiving the coveted endorsement of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
Sen. Scott Brown, in a heated re-election battle in Massachusetts, wrote on Twitter that he "found Todd Akin's comments about rape victims outrageous and way over the line.
"He needs to apologize," Brown wrote. He later called on Akin to step down from the GOP Senate nomination.
Democrats, meanwhile, wasted no time linking Akin to the GOP presidential ticket, soliciting donations from supporters by asserting the GOP – "led by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan" – was pushing policies that were dangerous for women.
"What do Romney and Ryan think of Akin's latest statement? They've been trying to distance themselves from it - but Congressman Ryan has already partnered with Akin on a whole host of issues that restrict women's ability to make their own health care decisions," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, wrote in the email.
"This kind of "leadership" is dangerously wrong for women - and I can't sit by and watch as these out of touch Republicans like Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and Todd Akin continue to roll back women's rights," she continued.
Polls indicate that President Barack Obama has the upper hand over Romney among female voters.
McCaskill almost immediately struck upon her opponent's comments Sunday, writing on Twitter: "As a woman & former prosecutor who handled 100s of rape cases, I'm stunned by Rep Akin's comments about victims this AM."
She later released a statement condemning her rival as "ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape."
McCaskill's website splashed Akin's comments across the homepage, and included a link where supporters could donate money to the Missouri senator's campaign.
On Monday, McCaskill said on MSNBC that her rival's remarks were "a window into Todd Akin's mind."
"He was elected by the Republican primary voters, by a wide margin," McCaskill said. "I know there are people that are out of the mainstream that really support Todd Akin. But for most Missourians, I hope this is a gut check moment when they say this is not somebody we want speaking for us on the floor of the United States Senate."
Republicans consider McCaskill, first elected in 2006, highly vulnerable in her re-election bid for a second term. Ahead of the GOP primary, a Mason-Dixon poll showed the senator falling behind each of the three main GOP competitors in hypothetical match-ups among registered Missouri voters.
Prior to this controversy, the top non-partisan political handicappers had rated the race a "toss up." Republicans consider McCaskill's seat a prime take-over target as they try to reclaim control of the Senate. Democrats currently have a 53 to 47 advantage in the chamber, but are defending 23 (21 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the party) of the 33 seats up for grabs in November.
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You can only 'distance' yourself so far from the people you rely on to get you elected – wow this dude is some kind of nut job or what?
How can you be pro-life under certain circumstances?
Life is life right?
What is the pro-life argument again?
Obama is desperate. Any dumb comment will do for a distraction..., in today's lamestream media
Note to RealityBites: This comment isn't a distraction. This is a window into Akin's true beliefs. This comment says a lot about his core values about women in general. Also, stop using the lamestream media comment. That is so 2008. Besides, your hero Palin isn't even invited to speak at the convention.
People like this should be voted out of office. If he ignorant enough to say something like this, he DOES NOT deserve to represent intelligent people.
What makes a rape legitimate or illegitimate? ...... if she "aked for it" is it illegimate and she can get pregnant?.... Does she have to fight the rapist to release her "anti pregnancy hormones"?
All these people complaining yet this guy will still get elected by the people of Missouri. Note to self: never move to Missouri
Indi- I can- republicans are pro-life from the moment a couple enters the bedroom, right up to the moment of birth- then human life becomes worthless. They hate education, the poor, the elderly. They support useless (but profitable) wars and Capital Punishment.
No hypocracy there.
Romney told Huckabee he would sign a personhood bill, which means no abortion even if rape or incest.
Ryan cosponsored bill with Akin allowing abortion only if "forcible" rape, whatever that means.
They are talking out of both sides of their mouths and cannot be trusted.
Can he give us his definition of a "legitimate" rape versus an illegitimate rape. Is he suggesting that a rape becomes classified illegitimate if a woman somehow starts to enjoy it? Just the fact he would use that term along with the word rape shows he is a complete loser.
Please keep talking Rep. Akin, Hank Williams Jr.(as he just did at a state fair) Ted Nugent, Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh and others because your ignorance and hatred is turning off intelligent voters who see this as a representation of the Republican party. You are actually helping the Democrats who are seen as the intelligent, compassionate adults in the room. I hope none of you pretends to be a Christian because your hateful comments sure aren't very Christianlike. If Jesus were alive on earth right now, he would most likely be a Democrat because they care more about the poor, needy and middle class folks. Hateful rhetoric goes against everything that the Bibles teaches.
This is the views of the Republicans, They continue to be elected, esp by women. When will women wake up and march against such views or do they like being overpowered by the Republicans. It is time voters wake up to such dumb views by non educated law makers.
If someone says "Gravity always points up you know... Ooops I mean down" or "I just visited all 57 states" or "Never misunderestimate your opponent" – that's misspeaking. If someone says what this guy said they're ignorant and mean spirited.
Here's the difference between the Democrats and Republicans on abortion. The Dems feel no one should be forced to have an abortion if they choose not to. It's a patient/doctor decision. The Reps feel everyone should be forced not to have an abortion even if they want one or for medical reasons need one. Which is the party of individual liberty and protecting privacy and individual rights? The Dems of course.
Again, I give you the republican party! What more do America need to throw the bums out?
Today's GOP. And Ryan co-sponsored a anti-abortion bill with this clown. The Romney/Ryan ticket will take us back to the 1800s.
wow we now have congressmen becoming doctors. god bless us all
How "entirely different" is Romney-liar's view on abortion policy?
Is it "severely" different?
Is he for real?
What else does he disagree with his chosen "understudy president" about?
Can you afford to let Ryan near the White House? Even on the public tour?
Don't run from your lunatic colleague now republicans. Embrace him like you've embraced Paul Ryan's budget. The Tea Party has taken over the republican party.
So much for the race being a toss-up. This loon just handed McCaskill her job back.
Romney/Ryan are sadly desperate to Etch-A-Sketch their stated positions on this issue.
Both Romney and Ryan admitted supporting the intrusive personhood amendment, which would outlaw exceptions for women in cases of rape and incest (same as Akin), as well as eliminating basic contraceptives for women.
Ryan actually co-sponsored it and cannot flip-flop from recent record.
Let's see just why did Romney pick Ryan, is it about his abortion stance, his budget and the trashing of Medicare. Rommey must have seen Ryan views as his views or he would not have picked him. Just like at Ryans pass voting and we know he stood for big debt under Bush. Ryan voted for all of Bushes Big DEBT items. Now Ryan is against Debt, GIVE ME A BREAK.
I predict that Akin will win handily in MO. His views are well known there.
Great job Missouri, you elected a man that probably believes storks bring babies. The entire process can apparently be stopped by waving off the stork. Some believe the uneducated should not vote, Missouri asks them to lead the state.
If Ryan's position is still no abortion at any cost, then how can Romney speak for him as part of the ticket? do we now have yet another set of double standards for Romney?
As usual the top of the GOP ticket cannot give a straight answer.
Truth is Ryan -never. Romney yes, no, maybe -what did you want to hear?
Ladies, don't be fool by Paul Ryan's good looks, he hates women as much as this bigot. They have the exact same stance on abortion.