Mitt Romney last night disowned the Republican candidate whose remarks on abortion and rape have created an uproar, urging him to make way for another challenger in the pivotal Senate race in Missouri.
But despite this pressure, demands from party leaders and the loss of millions of dollars of campaign funding, Congressman Todd Akin refused to stand aside in the Republican challenge against Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill, whose seat the party were banking on in their bid to regain control of the Senate in November.
An obvious deadline moreover beckoned, of 5pm local time yesterday, the last moment under Missouri's election laws for a candidate to pull out without legal or financial penalty. But Mr Akin remained defiant, proclaiming that he was "not a quitter," and even recording a new TV ad in which he asks voters to forgive him, but repeats his comprehensive opposition to abortion.
Mr Akin was clearly banking on the strong support he still appears to enjoy from social conservatives, who carried him to an upset victory in the 7 August primary against two more favoured candidates. But for the national party, the episode is an unmitigated disaster.
The remarks that generated the firestorm came in a TV interview, in which Mr Akin raised the notion of "legitimate rape," and suggested that the female body had a mechanism to prevent women who were raped from getting pregnant – in the Congressman's words, "to shut that whole thing down".
The claim drew contempt from womens' groups and derision in the medical community. Mr Akin was quickly repudiated by Mr Romney, and urged to withdraw by party leaders. The Republican Senate Committee and a leading party advocacy group, Crossroads GPS, meanwhile, both announced they were halting funding for the candidate, depriving him of a potential $10m.
While he refuses to back off from the race, in his new TV ad Mr Akin acknowledges that "rape is an evil act" and goes on to say that "I used the wrong words in the wrong way, and for that I apologise."