Conservative fund backs Akin despite rape comments
KANSAS CITY, Missouri
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - A conservative fundraising group on Thursday endorsed Todd Akin in a key Senate race in Missouri and pledged over $290,000 to his campaign in a sign more Republicans are coming to his aid despite his inflammatory comments about rape.
The backing from the Senate Conservatives Fund follows a loss of support from other Republican groups after Akin last month said women have biological defenses to prevent pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape", making legal abortion unnecessary.
Senior Republicans urged Akin to quit the race after his comments distracted attention from the party's nomination of Mitt Romney for U.S. president and drew criticism from President Barack Obama.
As the deadline for Akin to withdraw passed this week, 93 percent of Senate Conservatives Fund members surveyed backed Akin in the race against incumbent Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill.
"The response from our grassroots members was stronger than we ever imagined," fund Executive Director Matt Hoskins said in a statement to Reuters. "Conservatives understand how important this race is and they don't like how the Republican establishment has given up."
Akin's remarks complicated Republican efforts to capture the four Democratic seats they need to ensure a majority in the 100-member Senate.
The National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee backed Akin this week in a race he looked likely to win prior to his comments on rape. Former Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum also endorsed Akin on Wednesday.
The Senate Conservatives Fund is a political action committee dedicated to electing conservative legislators to Congress. It is identified strongly with U.S. Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, a Tea Party champion who also endorsed Akin this week.
(Reporting by Kevin Murphy; Editing by David Bailey and Andrew Hay)