Tampa, Florida (CNN) – While much of the Republican universe spent Monday condemning Missouri Senate hopeful Todd Akin for his comments about "legitimate rape" and abortion, one of the nation's most prominent conservative organizations rallied to his defense.
Two top officials from the Family Research Council said the Missouri congressman is the target of a Democratic smear campaign and chided those Republicans who have condemned Akin.
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Connie Mackey, who heads the group's political action committee, said the group "strongly supports" Todd Akin.
"We feel this is a case of gotcha politics," Mackey told reporters in Tampa, where the Republican National Committee was gathering ahead of the party's convention next week. "He has been elected five times in that community in Missouri. They know who Todd Akin is. We know who Todd Akin is. We've worked with him up on the hill. He's a defender of life."
"Todd Akin is getting a really bad break here," she added. "I don't know anything about the science or the legal implications of his statement. I do know politics, and I know gotcha politics when I see it."
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins fired back at Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, a leading moderate voice in the GOP who called Akin's remarks "outrageous" and encouraged him to drop his challenge to Democrat Claire McCaskill.
"He should be careful because based on some of his statements there may be some call for him to get out of his race," Perkins said of Brown. "He has been off the reservation on a number of Republican issues, conservative issues I should say. His support among conservatives is very shallow."
Mackey said that Republicans calling on Akin to apologize or drop out should get "backbone."
Perkins and Mackey, though, pulled their punches when asked about Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who has also denounced Akin.
"The Romney campaign as well as now Paul Ryan have made very clear where they stand in the issue of life," Perkins said. "We are not going to allow people to divide conservative voters in this process. We are going to keep our eye on the big picture."
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