Duggar family rallies for Todd Akin

WASHINGTON – Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin got a campaign trail boost Tuesday as the Duggar family – the reality TV couple Michelle and Jim Bob made famous with their now 19 children – headline two days of rallies as the Republican maintains a competitive race against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.

A new Republican poll shows Akin narrowly leading McCaskill, 49% to 45%, but earlier polls gave McCaskill the edge. The new poll shows an outsized gender gap: Men overwhelmingly favor Akin by 16 percentage points, while women prefer McCaskill by seven, according to the Republican firm Wenzel Strategies for the Citizens United Political Victory Fund.

National party support is streaming back to the embattled Republican after his suggestion that pregnancy rarely results from “legitimate rape.”

He has since said he misspoke, and Republican leaders who once abandoned his candidacy have returned to provide endorsements and financial support.

The conservative evangelical congressman opposes abortion in all circumstances, even in cases of rape, and McCaksill recently launched a series of TV ads with female survivors of sexual assault highlighting Akin’s support of “personhood” legislation – which could bar the so-called morning-after pill for emergency contraception by enforcing the view that life begins at conception.

“I've never voted for Claire McCaskill, but because of Todd Akin, I will now,” said the woman in one ad, Diana, who describes herself as a “Republican and pro-life mother.”

The Duggar family kicks off the campaign tour Tuesday evening with a rally in Osage Beach after Michelle Duggar joins Mike Huckabee’s wife, Janet, at a Women Standing with Akin luncheon in Springfield, Mo. Former Republican Rep. J.C. Watts headlined a weekend fundraiser in Kansas City, Mo. The National Federation of Independent Business’s political action committee endorsed Akin’s candidacy this week.

McCaskill had been a top Republican target before Akin made his comments about rape, but his candidacy has split the Republican Party – some, including former presidential contender Newt Gingrich, support his effort as key to gaining control of the Senate; others, including top Senate leaders, find his views too out of the mainstream to be defended.

McCaskill’s campaign had its own stumbles after Akin attacked her husband for receiving federal funds from the economic recovery act as part of his business holdings. McCaskill’s camp has said the support went for affordable housing and other programs within her husband’s businesses.

Once favored to swing control of the Senate, Republicans have seen their hopes dim in the face of stronger-than-expected Democratic candidates. Republicans need a four-seat pick up – three if Mitt Romney becomes president and his vice president, Paul D. Ryan, is the tie breaker in the chamber.

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