WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican Representative Todd Akin left open the possibility that he might drop out of the Missouri Senate race, but remained defiant against "party bosses" who want him to quit after controversial comments on rape and abortion.
"I'm never going to say everything that could possibly happen. I don't know the future," Akin said on ABC's "Good Morning America," opening the door to a possible exit from the race.
Akin apologized again in multiple television interviews on Wednesday for his earlier comments, but said he intended to remain in the race to be able to promote his staunch anti-abortion beliefs and to respect the wishes of Missouri voters.
"The people of Missouri chose me, and I don't believe it's right for party bosses to decide to override those voters," Akin said. "It makes me uncomfortable to think that the party bosses are going to dictate who runs, as opposed to the election process."
Republican Party leaders, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney, have been calling for Akin to leave the Senate race against Democrat Claire McCaskill over his remarks that victims of "legitimate rape" can naturally avoid pregnancy.
The backlash over Akin's comments has dominated campaigning for the November 6 election, energizing Democrats and testing Romney's control over his party a week before the national convention to formally nominate him for the presidency - the biggest event in his political career.
To the chagrin of many Republicans, the controversy has set off a firestorm over abortion and other social issues that distracts from the jobs-oriented economic message Romney and his vice presidential running mate, Representative Paul Ryan, want to send to relatively moderate independent voters.
Ryan distanced himself from Akin in an interview with KDKA radio in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, calling Akin's comment that "legitimate rape" would not result in pregnancy "outrageous."
"Rape is rape," Ryan said, echoing Democratic President Barack Obama's comment on the issue during an impromptu White House news conference on Monday.
Ryan and Akin had co-sponsored anti-abortion legislation in Congress that included a call for a classification of some rapes as "forcible."
Romney's campaign said this week that a Romney-Ryan administration would back rape exceptions to anti-abortion laws, which Ryan has not.
The vice presidential candidate declined specific comment in the interview on Wednesday when asked if he had changed his position. He said he was "proud of my pro-life record ... but Mitt Romney is at the top of the ticket."
Republicans fear the Akin episode could prevent them from winning in Missouri, lessening their chances of picking up the net four seats they need ensure winning a majority in the 100-member Senate.
McCaskill had been trailing Akin by up to 10 percentage points in recent polls, but the race had become a dead heat in snap polling as the news of Akin's remarks came out.
She has been stressing the controversy in fundraising emails, charging Akin with pursuing an "anti-women agenda," including votes against laws mandating equal pay for women and backing legislation that would outlaw abortion and many forms of birth control.
Akin chose to defy the party on Tuesday rather than bow to pressure to resign before an evening deadline. He has bought advertising and continued to fundraise, blaming the "liberal elite" for pushing for his departure from the race.
Akin's next deadline to take his name off the ballot is September 25.
On Wednesday, a fundraising website bannered "Help Todd Fight Back Against the Liberal Elite," said he had raised $14,954 out of a $15,000 goal.
But the Republican Party's Senate committee and American Crossroads, an outside fundraising group, said they were withholding millions of dollars they had planned to spend on the Missouri race as long as Akin did not step aside.
On NBC's "Today" program, Akin said he was not staying in the race for personal gain. "It's about trying to do the right thing and stand on principle," he said.
"This is not about me. This is not about my ego. But it is about the voters of the state of Missouri. They have chose me because of principles I stand on ... I believe they stand with me on a whole host of issues."
(Additional reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City and Susan Heavey in Washington; editing by Alistair Bell and Stacey Joyce)
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