By the CNN Wire Staff
(CNN) – Rep. Todd Akin announced Friday he will continue his run in Missouri for the U.S. Senate, despite having ignited a political firestorm with a comment that pregnancy resulting from “legitimate rape” was “really rare.”
“We are going to be here through the November election, and we are going to be here to win,” he told reporters in Chesterfield.
The race’s outcome could determine whether Republicans retain control of the U.S. Senate.
Akin’s announcement Friday that he will continue his bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill followed an onslaught of criticism over his comments last week about rape and pregnancy.
He had faced loud calls to step aside from fellow Republicans, who view incumbent McCaskill as vulnerable in her re-election bid. Many Republicans feared Akin’s remarks would jeopardize their party’s chances of winning McCaskill’s seat.
Earlier this month, Akin captured a win in Missouri’s three-way Senate primary. He defeated businessman John Brunner and former state treasurer Sarah Steelman despite falling behind in the polls just days before the contest.
The win was the latest in a string for Akin, who has easily won re-election to the House in elections since 2000. A former Army combat engineer and businessman, Akin is known for his staunchly conservative views and strong religious beliefs.
In 2010, Akin was one of the first members to join the newly formed Tea Party Caucus, and has pushed conservative social legislation in his 12 years in the House. He has sponsored the “Parent’s Right to Know Act,” which would bar federal funding for groups providing contraception to minors without parental consent.
He was endorsed in his Senate primary race by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who also is known for strong socially conservative standpoints. Akin appeared on Huckabee’s radio show Monday to apologize for his comments on rape.
“I made that statement in error. Let me be clear: Rape is never legitimate. It’s an evil act, and it’s committed by violent predators,” Akin said.
His decision to remain in the race came despite calls from many top Republicans to step aside, including Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts. Representatives of two large conservative grassroots groups — the Tea Party Express and Tea Party Nation — also urged Akin to exit the race.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was among the first to respond negatively to Akin’s comments. Romney said in an interview with the National Review Online that Akin’s “comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong.”
Romney came out more forcefully in an interview later with New Hampshire television station WMUR, calling the remarks “deeply offensive.”
“I can’t defend what he said; I can’t defend him,” Romney said.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee signaled that it would pull its funding from Akin’s race, and the conservative super PAC Crossroads GPS said it would no longer spend the $2.4 million it had reserved to boost Akin in the Missouri Senate contest.