Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., talking with reporters at the Missouri State Fair last week.
It's come to this for Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri:
As more and more of his fellow Republicans call on him to drop out of his race for the Senate before today's 6 p.m. ET deadline to easily get his name off the ballot, the congressman's loudest defender is his Democratic opponent.
"What's startling to me," Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said Monday, "is that these [Republican] party big wigs are coming down on him and saying that he needs to kick sand in the face of the Republican primary voters."
As our colleagues at St. Louis Public Radio say, it's "an odd bit of political posturing."
Of course, as Frank James has pointed out over at It's All Politics, part of McCaskill's early campaign strategy appeared to be doing what she could to help Akin become the GOP nominee - because he was arguably the weakest of the Republicans seeking that opportunity. Her campaign ran negative ads against two of the three GOP contenders during that party's primary. Her ads mentioning Akin were less sharp. So she isn't exactly a disinterested party.
In case you're just catching up with the story, Akin caused controversy on Sunday when he said during a TV interview that in cases of "legitimate rape," women rarely get pregnant. The implications - that some women claim rape in order to justify abortions or that there's some sort of difference between "rape" and "forcible rape" - led to condemnations of his remarks by Democrats and Republicans alike. Outside groups and national Republican campaigns have withdrawn their financial support for Akin's campaign.
The congressman has vowed to stay in the race.
But with Missouri election law allowing Akin to simply withdraw by 6 p.m. ET today and then let the GOP choose a new contender, pressure is building on him to get out. He could, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explains, wait until Sept. 25 - "but would first need to seek a court order."
On Morning Edition, NPR's Brian Naylor noted that the Missouri race is important to Republicans because party leaders view McCaskill's seat "as one of their best chances for a pick up." There are currently 51 Democrats in the Senate and two independents who caucus with that party.
Meanwhile, CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight had promoted an appearance by Akin on last night's broadcast - only to have the congressman fail to show up. So CNN kept a camera trained on an empty chair. And Morgan said that if Akin didn't come on, "then you are what we would call in Britain a gutless little twerp."
Update at 8:45 a.m. ET. In New Ad, Akin Asks For Foregiveness.
"I used the wrong words in the wrong way and for that I apologize," he says.
And Akin adds that "the fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy."