Mitt Romney joined a growing number of Republicans calling on Rep. Todd Akin to drop his bid for Missouri's U.S. Senate seat after his controversial remarks about rape.
"As I said yesterday, Todd Akin's comments were offensive and wrong and he should very seriously consider what course would be in the best interest of our country," Romney said in a statement. "Today, his fellow Missourians urged him to step aside, and I think he should accept their counsel and exit the Senate race."
Romney's statement came just hours after Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt and four other former senators from the state—John Ashcroft, Kit Bond, John Danforth and Jim Talent—issued a statement calling on Akin to drop his bid.
Over the weekend, the Missouri congressman came under fire for suggesting in a television interview that "legitimate rape" could not make a woman pregnant. Akin later clarified his remarks, suggesting he simply misspoke. On Tuesday, he released an ad asking for "forgiveness." But leading Republicans have continued to press him to quit the Senate race--calls that Akin continues to reject.
"I believe we can win this," Akin said in an interview with former Gov. Mike Huckabee on his radio show Tuesday.
Asked about Romney's call for him to quit the race in a later interview with Fox News's Sean Hannity, Akin again refused to quit. "Don't you think Romney made a bigger deal of this than he needed to?" Akin told Hannity. "Why couldn't he run his race, and I'll run mine?"
Romney's call comes amid growing concern among his top aides that Akin's comments could distract from the GOP's efforts to contrast Romney's message with Obama's and overtake the ideas of next week's Republican National Convention in Tampa.
On Monday, Romney said he found Akin's rape comments "offensive" and "inexcusable," but he stopped short of calling Akin to quit, suggesting it was up to the Missouri lawmaker to make that decision.