By DAVID A. LIEB and JIM SALTER, Associated Press
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill on Monday launched a Halloween-week ad casting her Republican challenger Todd Akin as "scary" because of his remarks about "legitimate rape." Akin, meanwhile, is gaining some outside help in his quest to oust Missouri's senior senator.
McCaskill's ad aired as Akin teamed up with Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe for a series of campaign events in the St. Louis area. Inhofe was attending an energy roundtable discussion and fundraiser, then touring an aerospace and defense firm with Akin. On Tuesday and Wednesday, Akin was to campaign in the Kansas City area with former House speaker and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.
McCaskill has not been on the campaign trail because she is spending time with her critically ill mother. But that hasn't stopped the first-term senator from launching new ads against Akin. Her latest begins with a woman proclaiming: "Todd Akin is scary." The ad then features a video clip from mid-August in which Akin says women rarely get pregnant from rape. Akin is shown saying: "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
Another woman in the ad says: "He has no idea how it even works and he wants to legislate about it?"
Akin has repeatedly apologized for his remark and said he was wrong, but the suburban St. Louis congressman has continued to campaign on his staunch opposition to abortion in all cases except when a woman's life is endangered.
During the energy roundtable, Akin said McCaskill has resorted to "desperate" claims in campaign ads.
"To me those huge government votes that Claire McCaskill takes are the things that are scary and I found myself very much in line with the commonsense of the people of the state of Missouri," Akin said, citing the opposition of many Missourians to health care reform and stimulus measures.
"A lot of these claims are I think baseless and I think the people are starting to write them off as baseless," Akin said of McCaskill's ads.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee and other deep-pocketed GOP interest groups dropped their advertising plans for Akin after the rape remark, and top national Republicans such as presidential candidate Mitt Romney called on Akin to quit the race. Akin instead forged ahead with his campaign. He has received support from Republicans, such as Gingrich, but has not regained the backing of Romney or the GOP's Senate campaign committee.
Inhofe is one who has stood by Akin.
"I maxed out (on contributions to Akin) in the very beginning and I stayed with him all the way through this thing," Inhofe said.
As a nod to Akin's reputation as a maverick, Inhofe said, "He's not going to be very popular in Washington. I'm not very popular in Washington."
Akin said he believes he is seeing support from women despite the rape comments. He cited the campaign effort called "Women for Akin" that has fanned out around the state and said he sees as many women as men at campaign events.
"It seems to me that women have the same interest in many regards as everybody else in society does," Akin said, citing economic issues. "We're talking about a bright hope for our children and all of our grandchildren and that doesn't happen when the economy is being shrunk and everything."
At the roundtable at McArthur's Bakery in St. Louis County, co-owner David McArthur told Akin that orders drop 5 percent to 10 percent when gas prices get to around $3.30 per gallon. He said raw prices for the bakery have increased 38 percent during Obama's presidency.
"All the small business people I know are just hanging on through this economy," McArthur said.
Inhofe said tapping recoverable reserves in the U.S. could have an immediate positive impact on gas prices and the economy. He said a swing of just a few votes in the Senate could have a major effect on energy policy and make the U.S. less dependent on oil from the Middle East "in a matter of months — not years but months."
Lieb reported from Jefferson City, Mo.