By Susan Heavey and Alina Selyukh
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - There are still a few pockets of support for congressman Todd Akin in conservative U.S. politics, despite his controversial remarks on abortion and rape.
Akin, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Claire McCaskill, has apologized for his comment that pregnancy could be prevented in cases of "legitimate rape" because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
Christian conservative leaders, and some of Akin's fellow Republicans, came out in his defense.
Conservative Republican Representative Steve King of Iowa, posted a tweet on his congressional website Tuesday saying, "The leftist media, paid in ca$h by George Soros, is dictating the response of leading Republicans. How can the American Dream survive?"
King told KMEG-TV in Iowa on Monday that Akin is "a strong Christian man, with a wonderful family" and said the election should be about Akin's record.
"I'm seeing the same thing, petty personal attacks substituting for strong policy," he said, adding that pregnancies from rape are "really rare," in an interview circulated by the Democratic National Committee.
Tim Wildmon, president of the conservative American Family Association, said in a statement that the controversy had been overblown and should be forgotten, since Akin has apologized.
"Even if he is medically incorrect, still, that is irrelevant to the issues of life that may come before him for a vote should he be elected to the U.S. Senate," he said.
"I'm a little stunned at the piling on against Congressman Akin over what clearly is a simple misuse of the English language," he said.
Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council Action, said Akin's comments were inappropriate and indefensible, but his group still supports Akin because of his long-term anti-abortion positions.
"I have known Congressman Akin for nearly a decade. My personal experience with Todd along with his record make clear his compassion and commitment for the sanctity of life, the foundation of the family and the well-being of all Americans," Perkins said.
Akin, while apologizing for his wording, has not stepped away from his staunch opposition to abortion in all cases, and said on Tuesday he will not leave the Senate race, despite pressure to get out from fellow Republicans -- including presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
He said in a radio interview on Tuesday that he would not step away from his anti-abortion position.
"I said one word in one sentence on one day, and everything changed," Akin said in an interview with Mike Huckabee, another favorite of social conservatives. "I believe the defense of the unborn and a deep respect for life....They are not things to run away from."
Akin said he would stay in the race against McCaskill, who has been a close ally of Democratic President Barack Obama's, because he represents a conservative movement that must be heard.
(Writing by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Fred Barbash and Cynthia Osterman)
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