* Pre-convention battle between party and Christian right?
* Huckabee throws full support behind Akin campaign
By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON, Aug 23 Under fire from his own party
for controversial comments on rape, U.S. Republican
Representative Todd Akin won the support on Thursday of social
conservatives in his effort to stay in Missouri's U.S. Senate
Akin met members of the Council for National Policy, a
coalition of conservative and evangelical leaders, in Tampa,
Florida, as the controversy over his remarks on rape and
abortion threatened to harden into a standoff between some
Republican leaders and social conservatives.
Akin spent Wednesday night and Thursday in private meetings
at the group's two-day summit, CNN reported.
Also on Thursday, the FBI and a spokesman for Akin said the
U.S. Capitol Police and FBI were investigating rape threats
against Akin and those close to him.
"There have been threats of rape of staff, (of) the
congressman's family and the congressman himself, and
suggestions that people should die," Steve Taylor, Akin's
district director and spokesman, told Reuters by telephone.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council,
which supports Akin's Senate bid, said on MSNBC on Thursday that
the meeting in Tampa was a chance for members of the council to
encourage the candidate before the Nov. 6 elections.
Akin's meeting was first reported by Politico. CNN said he
had been scheduled to attend the conference long before making
remarks on Sunday that set off a firestorm.
CNN reported that Akin was encouraged by leading figures in
the conservative movement to remain in the Senate race.
Some Republican strategists worry that the furor over Akin,
who has deep ties to the Christian right, is shaping up into a
standoff between religious conservatives and leaders of the
Republican Party who have called for Akin to leave the race
against Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill.
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and many senior
party figures have told Akin to pull out of the Missouri race
because of his comment that victims of "legitimate rape" have a
natural mechanism to avoid pregnancy. He has apologized for the
remarks but defied the demands to quit the race.
"We're talking about someone who misspoke," Perkins said.
HUCKABEE: REPUBLICANS 'CRUCIFY' AKIN
Some evangelicals have expressed doubts about Romney because
of his Mormon religious faith and past moderate positions such
as his support for abortion rights as governor of Massachusetts.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a former
presidential candidate who is also a favorite of religious
conservatives, criticized party leaders for trying to push Akin
out of the Senate race. In an email to supporters, he called the
pressure on Akin "sleazy" and said he would campaign with Akin
as often as he could.
"Do we forgive and forget the verbal gaffes of Republicans
who are 'conveniently pro-life' for political advantage, but
crucify one who truly believes that every life is sacred?"
Akin has said he will not attend the Republican national
convention in Tampa next week.
A flash poll by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling on
Monday had Akin leading McCaskill by 1 percentage point. But a
survey conducted on Wednesday by the Republican-leaning
automated pollster Rasmussen Reports had McCaskill up by 10
The Missouri race is crucial to Republican hopes of winning
enough seats to take control of the U.S. Senate, where Democrats
have a 53-47 seat majority.
Akin has been appealing to supporters with a website
bannered "Let the People Decide Not Party Bosses," asking for
small contributions. "As a public servant, voters are who I
answer to," he said in the appeal.
Akin's site said he had raised $110,000 by Thursday evening,
with a goal of $125,000 by midnight. Those totals pale beside
the millions of dollars from the national Republican Party and
other groups Akin has lost since Sunday.