JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Farm Bureau is reconsidering its endorsement of Republican Rep. Todd Akin for U.S. Senate because of comments he made about women being able to thwart pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape," the organization said Friday.
The bureau's political action committee backed Akin over Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill by a 99 percent vote just three weeks ago, and the possibility it might drop support for a Republican candidate is unprecedented.
"After polling the Missouri Farm Bureau county leaders, a majority believe the endorsement of Todd Akin for U.S. Senate should be reconsidered," said Farm Bureau spokesman Estil Fretwell, an adviser to the group's political arm.
Fretwell said a new endorsement vote will come soon.
It is unlikely the group would endorse McCaskill if it drops Akin. The Missouri Farm Bureau has always backed the Republican candidate since it began making Senate endorsements in 1982.
Under the procedures discussed by political action committee chairmen, "if the endorsement is not made again (for Akin), then there would be no endorsement," Fretwell said.
Akin said he won't the let the Farm Bureau's reconsideration deter his campaign.
"I was happy to get an almost unanimous vote before. They have to do what they think is right, just like I have to do what I think is right," Akin told reporters while campaigning Friday in the rural northwestern Missouri town of Savannah.
The loss of Farm Bureau support could cost Akin money. But a neutral stance by the Farm Bureau, with branches covering all Missouri counties, could have an even greater effect among rural voters.
Akin has repeatedly apologized for his remarks while rebuffing calls to quit the race from top Republicans, including GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Akin already has lost the financial backing of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the conservative Crossroads group affiliated with Republican strategist Karl Rove. Both entities have dropped plans to air millions of dollars of ads in Missouri.
Bloomberg Businessweek's website reported Friday that Rove joked while addressing a Republican donors' breakfast Friday at the Tampa Club in Florida that someone could have Akin killed to remove him from the race.
The site says Rove quipped: "We should sink Todd Akin. If he's found mysteriously murdered, don't look for my whereabouts!"
Akin's congressional office issued a statement calling Rove's quote "deeply disturbing," especially since the FBI has been investigating threats against Akin.
The six-term congressman has sought to counteract the loss of big dollars with an aggressive push for small-dollar donations online. He continues to draw support from some social conservatives and anti-abortion activists, including the Family Research Council and former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.
Akin said Friday that quitting just weeks after winning the support of voters in the August GOP primary would set a poor precedent.
"I would be betraying their trust if I stepped down," Akin said.
Associated Press writer Bill Draper contributed to this report from Savannah.