The Republican nominee for governor of Missouri criticized Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" comments Tuesday but declined to say whether or not Akin should drop his U.S. Senate campaign.
Businessman Dave Spence, who is challenging Gov. Jay Nixon (D), told the Kansas City Star Tuesday, eight days after Akin made the controversial remarks, that he disagreed with the St. Louis congressman, but said he was focused on his own race and not the Senate race.
The Kansas City Star reports:
But the St. Louis businessman stopped short of calling for Akin to abandon his campaign for U.S. Senate.
“What he said was wrong and offensive, and he has admitted that,” Spence said shortly after addressing a meeting of the University of Missouri College Republicans. “I’m really just choosing to run for governor and get 250,000 Missourians back to work. There’s enough cooks in the kitchen now without me chipping in.”
While national GOP leaders -- including Mitt Romney, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, RNC Chairman Reince Preibus and four former Missouri senators -- have called on Akin to drop out of the race, state Republicans have largely remained silent. The National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Tea Party have indicated they are likely to cut funding in Akin's campaign against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D), one of the most competitive races in the country.
Spence's comments are similar to those made by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) when asked if the national groups should take funding away from Akin.
Several Missouri political analysts told The Huffington Post last week that Akin's decision to stay in the race could have an impact on other races in the state, including the gubernatorial race. Former state Sen. Jeff Smith (D-St. Louis), now a political science professor at The New School in New York City, indicated that it could cost Republicans votes from Republican suburban women who support abortion rights.
"They are long troubled by a 25-year GOP trend of intolerance towards gays and minorities and reproductive freedom," Smith said last week.
While Spence has not addressed whether Akin should remain in the race, at least one Republican candidate for the state legislature has backed Akin. Last week, Fred Berry, who is challenging state Rep. Stephen Webber (D-Columbia), donated to Akin's campaign after the "legitimate rape" remarks and called on others to do the same.
Specnce has been facing an uphill battle against Nixon, with polls showing him trailing the Democrat. Spence entered the race in November, originally planning to challenge Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder (R). Kinder that month instead decided to seek a third term as lieutenant governor due to a stripper scandal.