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Claire McCaskill and Todd Akin

Claire McCaskill, left, and Todd Akin

U.S. Rep. Todd Akin stood firm against mounting GOP pressure for him to quit Missouri's Senate race on Monday afternoon, tweeting: "I am in this race to win."

A telephone poll conducted on Monday night by North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling showed Akin still leading incumbent U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill by one-point, 44 to 43 percent, despite the growing controversy over his remarks that women can somehow avoid pregnancy after forced sex.  The Democrat-affiliated firm said it shows little change from its previous poll before the controversy, which also had Akin leading by one percentage point.  

"The Missouri thing just speaks to hyper partisanship - Republicans don't even really like Akin but they'll vote for him over McCaskill," PPP said on Twitter.  

PPP said 75 percent of Missourians polled thought Akin's comments were "inappropriate."  

On Monday, as Republican groups pulled funding from his campaign, Akin asked donors to give money, saying "we need a conservative."

Earlier in the day, Akin apologized on Mike Huckabee's radio show for the comments and said he will stay in the race.  

"I'm not a quitter," Akin said.

"We all make mistakes," Akin said, disowning his previous comments that victims of "legitimate rape" can somehow prevent getting pregnant. "The many people who supported me know that when you make a mistake what you need to do is say you're sorry." 

Now, Republican party leaders who want Akin to exit the race are forced to put heat on him in public, which could further wound his chances of beating Claire McCaskill in the fall. 

Minutes after Akin said he would stay in the race, Sen. John Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, released a statement saying Akin should "carefully consider what is best for him, his family, the Republican Party, and the values that he cares about and has fought for throughout his career in public service." 

Crossroads GPS, which has spent millions on ads in Missouri attacking McCaskill, confirmed on Monday that it has canceled a new ad buy for Akin.

"The act speaks for itself," said Nate Hodson, a spokesman for the organization.

The National Review, the conservative guidepost, issued an editorial today titled: "Step aside, Todd Akin." 

But some conservative groups rallied to Akin's side. Tom McClusky, the vice president for government affairs at the Family Research Council, tweeted: "We should always hold ourselves to a different standard but we should also not throw friends who've apologized under a bus."

Akin, who is running for U.S. Senate against incumbent Claire McCaskill, has until Tuesday at 5 p.m. to withdraw without a court order, according to Missouri election law. That law allows candidates to leave the ballot 11 weeks before election day, otherwise he would need a court order, which he can get up until Sept. 25.  The  Republican state committee would have two weeks to name a replacement, under the law.

Akin, a deeply religious man, won the Missouri Republican primary less than two weeks ago. He has long followed his own beliefs and eschewed national and state party directives.

Akin said in an interview broadcast on Sunday that in the case of "legitimate rape" the female body can resist pregnancy and "has ways to shut that whole thing down."  Many doctors have disputed the statement, saying it has no scientific basis. 

Akin said on Monday that he "was talking about forcible rape and it was exactly the wrong word." 

"Rape is never legitimate," Akin added. 

Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., who is locked in a close re-election contest with Democrat Elizabeth Warren, this morning called for Akin to drop from the Senate race.

Brown said in a written statement that "as a husband and father of two young women, I found Todd Akin’s comments about women and rape outrageous, inappropriate and wrong." “There is no place in our public discourse for this type of offensive thinking. Not only should he apologize, but I believe Rep. Akin’s statement was so far out of bounds that he should resign the nomination for U.S. Senate in Missouri.”

Akin was scheduled for an interview this morning with KMOX radio host Charlie Brennan but canceled.

Akin beat St. Louis businessman John Brunner and former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman in the August primary. Neither campaign has issued a statement yet on the possibility of Akin dropping out of the race.

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SOURCES: Post-Dispatch files, Associated Press, MCT, cbsnews.com, abcnews.com, wikipedia.org, usnews.com, Time, Washington Post, New Statesman