By DAVID A. LIEB, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Since first uttering the regrettable comments about "legitimate rape," Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin has been his own most formidable foe – distracting attention from his big-government campaign theme against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill by continuing to say quirky or questionable things.

Now, with less than two weeks remaining until Election Day, Akin is running out of time to focus the attention of voters squarely on McCaskill and to recoup the financial support necessary to counter her advertising blitz.

"The Republicans hoped this would be a referendum on McCaskill and the Obama administration," said Beth Miller, a political scientist at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. "Instead it has become really a referendum on Todd Akin and whether he's really fit to be a U.S. senator."

The naysayers include leaders of Akin's own party and outside groups that control millions of dollars in campaign cash that they now are directing to Republicans in other races. An Associated Press analysis of Akin's campaign finance report shows that the temporary swell of small-dollar donations he received after his remark was not accompanied by many contributions of the maximum amount allowed by law.

The rush of Republican financial support predicted by Akin supporters such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has yet to materialize. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney – he urged Akin to drop out after the rape remark – continues to shun him. And the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which pulled millions of dollars of planned advertising in Missouri, has remained on the sidelines. The few GOP senators who did lend their names as hosts to an Akin fundraiser in Washington didn't actually show up for it.

The problems started after Akin was asked in a TV interview in late August about the odds of a woman becoming pregnant from rape. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," he said.

The furor over the remark suggests that the seat Republicans were once favored to win is no sure thing in the party's quest to gain control of the Senate. From the moment Akin's now-famous comment aired on Aug. 19, the GOP started looking elsewhere for the four seats it would have to net if President Barack Obama wins re-election, or three if Romney prevails.

Akin acknowledged that his campaign hasn't gone quite as he anticipated.

"This thing has been a bucking bronco ride," Akin said in a recent interview with the AP, adding that he has no regrets about forging ahead. "It's always worth it when you do what you think in your heart is the right thing to do."

Akin is not denying the financial challenge that stands between him and McCaskill's Senate seat.

Noting that McCaskill has outspent him 10-to-1 on advertising in some weeks, Akin's campaign recently pleaded with donors to dig a little deeper, telling them in an email message, "We need resources NOW in order to compete with McCaskill."

The money plea came as media coverage was again focused on something Akin said – this time, comparing McCaskill to a "dog" that fetches "taxes and red tape and bureaucracy" from Washington, D.C. Last month, Akin drew linguistic scrutiny after suggesting McCaskill wasn't very "ladylike" in their first debate. Unlike the "legitimate rape" comment, Akin made no apologies for the "ladylike" or "dog" remarks.

Akin's comments have played right into McCaskill's campaign strategy. The day after Akin won a competitive Aug. 7 Republican primary, McCaskill launched a website featuring video clips of Akin criticizing Social Security, the minimum wage and federal student loans. When Akin's "legitimate rape" remark aired on TV on Aug. 19, it only added to McCaskill's theme that Akin was extreme and out of touch with the mainstream.

More recently, McCaskill has hammered Akin with TV ads featuring rape survivors expressing outrage about his remark and his opposition to emergency contraception. At a campaign rally earlier this week, McCaskill quipped that her strategy before the election is to "just keep Todd Akin talking."

Akin asserts it is McCaskill who is out of touch with the views of many Missourians, illustrated by her support for Obama and his big-government policies, such as the 2009 stimulus act and 2010 health care law. McCaskill's ties to Obama – she was one of his earliest supporters in the 2008 presidential campaign – figured to provide an advantage to Akin in a state that has recently tilted toward Republicans in national elections. Obama, who narrowly lost Missouri despite a vigorous campaign in 2008, essentially conceded the state this year to Romney.

Akin's latest strategy has been to portray McCaskill as the beneficiary of big government by highlighting the business deals of her husband, Joseph Shepard. Firms affiliated with Shepard received $39 million in federal housing subsidies during McCaskill's first five years in office, though McCaskill's campaign has said that money helped operate low-income housing units and did not personally enrich the family.

Akin had hoped that the National Republican Senatorial Committee would re-enter Missouri's Senate race if he remained close in the polls in the final weeks. An NRSC spokesman said it is a keeping "a close eye on this race" and hopes Akin can win.

But two Republicans with knowledge of the situation said the committee has looked at the race several times in the aftermath of Akin's remarks and decided he is too far adrift of McCaskill for them to get involved with the contest. The committee has instead poured money into other states. The Republicans spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the committee's decision-making.

The Karl Rove-backed group Crossroads GPS has, likewise, stood firm in its decision to stop advertising in Missouri after Akin's rape remark.

But Akin has received financial help from political committees associated with several Republican senators, including Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Jon Kyl of Arizona.

Some individuals also have stepped up their giving to Akin. For example, finance reports show that suburban St. Louis residents Donald and Linda Runge gave $200 to Akin before his "legitimate rape" remark. Since then, they've given him at least three additional donations totaling $150 and may chip in more, said Linda Runge.

"When all the Republicans wanted to turn their backs on him, we said no," Linda Runge said. "We understand it was a slip of the tongue. We wanted to make sure we supported him, and that's why we decided to give even more to him."

___

Associated Press writers Henry C. Jackson and Jack Gillum in Washington contributed to this report.

Related on HuffPost:

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  • Gov. Jan Brewer (R-Ariz.)

    "Well, I thought his comments were a little bit outrageous," she <a href="http://www.kjzz.org/content/1208/gov-brewer-akin-comments-little-bit-outrageous-doesnt-call-candidate-drop-out-race" target="_hplink">told KJZZ's Mark Brodie</a>. "I'm not in a position to [decide] whether it's right for the party to pull funding, I mean, those people there raise the money, they get to spend it however they wish."

  • Mitt Romney

    "As I said yesterday, Todd Akin's comments were offensive and wrong and he should very seriously consider what course would be in the best interest of our country," said Romney in a statement. "Today, his fellow Missourians urged him to step aside, and I think he should accept their counsel and exit the Senate race." Earlier, from an <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/314452/romney-akins-inexcusable-comment-robert-costa" target="_hplink">interview with the National Review</a>: <blockquote>"Congressman's Akin comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong," Romney said. "Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive."</blockquote>

  • Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.)

    "He should be ashamed of himself to be talking about it in that way," Christie said. "It's stunning to me that somebody who's offering themselves for high office like that would have those kind of thoughts and use that kind of language."

  • Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.)

    From <a href="http://mountpleasant.patch.com/articles/gov-scott-walker-says-missouri-senate-candidate-todd-akin-should-get-out" target="_hplink">Patch</a>: <blockquote>Gov. Scott Walker said Tuesday that Republican Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin should drop out of the race after Akin made controversial comments about rape and pregnancy. "Yes, he should step down. Those comments were ignorant at best and outrageous," Walker said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Sturtevant.</blockquote>

  • Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-Va.)

    "He's got to seriously decide what's in the best interest of the party, what's in the best interest of the state of Missouri, and frankly, at this point, given that flat wrong statement, whether he can win," McDonnell <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/21/bob-mcdonnell-todd-akin_n_1818906.html?1345568504" target="_hplink">told The Huffington Post</a>. "I think there was a belief a month ago, when it was just he and [incumbent Sen. Claire] McCaskill head to head after he got the nomination, that it would be a hard-fought competitive race, with Romney at the top of the ticket and up double digits, that this would be a race that would be winnable for the Republicans," McDonnell said. "To say things that seemed to be so flat wrong and out of touch with both science and the people, I think it makes it very difficult at this point for him to win."

  • NRSC Chair Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas)

  • Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.)

    "It is beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape ... The ideas that Todd Akin has expressed about the serious crime of rape and the impact on its victims are offensive."

  • Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan Campaign

    "Gov. Romney and Congressman (Paul) Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin's statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape," Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said. "Congressman's Akin comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong," <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/314452/romney-akins-inexcusable-comment-robert-costa" target="_hplink">Romney said</a>. "Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive."

  • Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

    "What he said is just flat wrong in addition to being wildly offensive to any victim of sexual abuse. Although Representative Akin has apologized, I believe he should take time with his family to consider whether this statement will prevent him from effectively representing our party in this critical election," said McConnell, according to the <a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-pn-mcconnell-suggests-todd-akin-consider-his-options-20120820,0,5243455.story" target="_hplink"><em>Los Angeles Times</em></a>.

  • Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)

  • Elizabeth Warren

  • Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.)

    "As a husband and father of two young women, I found <a href="http://livewire.talkingpointsmemo.com/entry/scott-brown-calls-for-todd-akin-to-drop" target="_hplink">Todd Akin's comments</a> 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 US Senate in Missouri."

  • Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa)

    "Whether he has mispoken or whether he has a position that we would have trouble agreeing on, I don't know that. I do know him and I do know his family, and I'm impressed with what they've accomplished. So that's the best I can do with what little bit I know," <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDsQkjnQx5Y&feature=youtu.be" target="_hplink">said King</a>. And later: "I just haven't heard of that being a circumstance that's been brought to me in any personal way," he <a href="http://www.kmeg14.com/story/19324372/rep-steve-king-on-the-campaign-trail" target="_hplink">told KMEG</a>. "I'd be open to hearing discussion about that subject matter."

  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.)

  • Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.)

    "I have to agree with those, including Republicans, who have said he should give up his race for Senate," said Van Hollen on <a href="http://video.msnbc.msn.com/newsnation/48728017/#48728017" target="_hplink">NewsNation with Tamron Hall</a>.

  • Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.)

    "Like Joe Biden's comments last week, I find Todd Akin's comments made Sunday to be just as outrageous and offensive. Such insulting and offensive remarks from Joe Biden and Todd Akin have no place in our political discourse," said Mack in a <a href="http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2012/08/connie-mack-cosponsor-of-forcible-rape-bill-links-akins-legitimate-rape-with-bidens-chains-.html" target="_hplink">press release</a>.

  • Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.)

  • Cindy McCain

  • Former Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.)

    Talent, who once held the Senate seat Akin is running for, declined to endorse Akin on Monday. "It's a decision he has to make," Talent said when asked whether Akin should step aside, according to the <a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-pn-todd-akin-stay-in-senate-race-20120820,0,2849040.story" target="_hplink"><em>Los Angeles Times</em></a>. "I can't agree with anything [Akin] said," Talent later clarified.

  • Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.)

    "Now, Akin's choice of words isn't the real issue here. The <a href="http://www.politico.com/blogs/burns-haberman/2012/08/dnc-email-ties-romney-to-todd-akin-132522.html" target="_hplink">real issue</a> is a Republican party -- led by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan -- whose policies on women and their health are dangerously wrong. I'm outraged at the Republicans trying to take women back to the dark ages -- if you agree, join me in taking a stand for women. Really, it's deeply concerning that Republicans continue to support legislation that is, quite literally, dangerous for women. Mitt Romney famously says he would "get rid of" federal funding for Planned Parenthood if he had the chance. His running mate, Paul Ryan, was one of more than 200 Republican cosponsors of a piece of legislation that would have narrowed the definition of rape. Can you imagine -- the same Republican House that refuses to pass a jobs bill jumped at the opportunity to make life harder for victims of rape? And 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."

  • Sarah Steelman, Akin's Former Primary Opponent

  • Meghan McCain

  • Terry O'Neill, President Of The National Organization For Women

    "That kind of rhetoric re-traumatizes sexual assault victims. ... That kind of talk, I believe, is intended to shame women," she told the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/20/todd-akin-rape-comments_n_1810362.html?1345468189" target="_hplink">Associated Press radio</a>, characterizing the remarks as "flat-out astonishing."

  • Mike Murphy, GOP Consultant

  • Michelle Malkin, Conservative Columnist

  • Joe Scarborough, Host Of MSNBC's "Morning Joe"

    "There is a rule," <a href="http://www.mediaite.com/tv/scarborough-reacts-to-akins-rape-remark-conservatives-neglecting-to-choose-the-most-electable-candidate/" target="_hplink">he [Scarborough] continued</a>, "that we conservatives have followed for a long time, and it's the 'Bill Buckley Rule.' You elect the most electable conservative. The person who is the most conservative and who is the most electable is the one you put on the ticket. That's the part of the equation that we're losing over the last three years. And it's making Harry Reid the majority leader."

  • Bryan Fischer, Conservative Radio Host

  • Tom Perriello, President Of Center For American Progress Action Fund

  • Petition By The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

    <blockquote><a href="http://dccc.org/pages/denounce-todd-akin?source=2012.08.20_kw_all" target="_hplink">Sign your name to call</a> on Speaker John Boehner to remove Rep. Todd Akin from the House Science and Technology Committee. Republican Congressman Todd Akin told a Missouri news station: "First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare... If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." Someone who believes nonsense like this has no part overseeing science policy. Tell Speaker Boehner to immediately remove Rep. Akin from the House Science and Technology Committee.</blockquote>

  • Susan B. Anthony List

    <blockquote>"Congressman Akin, a longtime pro-life leader, has said he had misspoken, and no one is arguing that rape is anything but a despicable, horrible crime. "Abortion supporters like Sen. Claire McCaskill are trying to use this issue as a smokescreen to hide from their radical, pro-abortion records that are out of step with the majority of Missourians and the American people. On the issues of taxpayer funding of elective abortion in Obamacare, protection of unborn girls being targeted in the womb solely because of their gender, and whether children capable of feeling pain in the womb should be protected, President Obama and Senator McCaskill have been on the wrong side, showing that they favor abortion on-demand, for any reason, up to the moment of birth, subsidized by the taxpayers. "If President Obama and Senator McCaskill care to focus on extreme positions, it is time for self reflection. It is time to answer the question why this president has recently rejected bans on gender selection and late term abortions. "Todd Akin, on the other hand, has a record of voting to protect human life. His opponent does not. Congressman Akin has been an excellent partner in the fight for the unborn."</blockquote>

  • Tea Party Express

    <a href="http://www.teapartyexpress.org/5205/tea-party-express-urges-rep-akin-to-step-down" target="_hplink">Tea Party Express</a>, the nation's largest tea party political action committee, is urging Congressman Todd Akin to resign his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. Tea Party Express Chairman Amy Kremer said, "Congressman Akin's comments this weekend are not just unfortunate and inappropriate, but they are distracting from our main goal of defeating Claire McCaskill and taking the Senate gavel out of the hands of Harry Reid. At a time when our national debt is approaching $16 trillion, job growth is stagnate, and the Senate has failed to pass a budget in over 3 years, we need a candidate that is ready to help lead the charge for conservative solutions. "One of the lessons we learned in 2010 is that we need candidates who are not only conservative, but are capable of putting together a strong campaign against liberal opponents. Akin's frequent 'Bidenisms' are distracting from the important issues at hand. "It is critical that we defeat Senator Claire McCaskill in November, but it will be too difficult to achieve that with Todd Akin as the conservative alternative. He should step down and give conservatives a chance at taking back the Senate in November," Kremer concluded.