(CNN) - Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill won re-election Tuesday after defeating Republican Rep. Todd Akin, according to a CNN projection. With 24 percent of the estimated vote counted, McCaskill led Akin 53 percent to 40 percent.
McCaskill's victory is a major loss for Republicans who once saw her seat as a possible takeover target in their bid to win majority control of the Senate.
But Akin's campaign never recovered from his controversial comments in August when he said women who are victims of "legitimate" rape can biologically reject pregnancy. At the time, the St. Louis congressman led narrowly in the polls and was favored to win the seat from the first-term senator, a close ally of President Obama's.
Seizing on Akin's comments, the centrist McCaskill took a lead in the polls the rest of the race. GOP leaders in Washington condemned Akin's remarks and pulled funding for his campaign although they said they still preferred him to win.
Last week, Akin got an influx of funding that allowed him to mount a late, if unsuccessful, advertising push. Speculation swirled that the National Republican Senatorial Committee had reversed course and decided to donate to Akin, in a last ditch effort to win the seat. NRSC officials would not confirm nor deny they provided the funds.