Sen. Jim DeMint and former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Wednesday morning endorsed Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, who is seeking to unseat Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill and made headlines for his controversial comments on rape earlier this fall.
On Tuesday -- the last day Akin could legally request his name be removed from the November ballot -- the congressman set out on a bus tour of the state. His move defied calls from a number of Republicans and GOP groups - including his state's Republican party - to quit the race, concerned his continued candidacy would challenge their chances of winning control of the Senate.
In a joint statement, Santorum and DeMint wrote otherwise.
"If Republicans are to win back the Senate and stop President Obama's liberal agenda, we must defeat Senator Claire McCaskill in Missouri," they wrote, criticizing her for supporting Obama's health reform law.
"Todd Akin is a principled conservative who is committed to winning and fighting for freedom in the U.S. Senate," they continued. "Todd will work to stop reckless spending, stop the out of control debt, repeal the government takeover of healthcare, support our military and defend life at every stage."
DeMint, the junior senator from South Carolina, is a favorite of tea party supporters and Santorum won the GOP primary in Missouri, winning the popular vote in every county and overall beating the eventual GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney by 30 points.
Akin rose to prominence after saying in an August interview that pregnancy as a result of rape, "from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare."
"If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," he continued. Days later, the Republican ran a TV ad in which he said "I used the wrong words in the wrong way and for that I apologize."
A Wednesday email sent from Santorum's group, Patriot Voices, to supporters ahead of the official announcement included a link to donate to Akin's campaign.
Although the NRSC did not commit to financially backing Akin, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fired back blasting "statement by national Republicans in support of Todd Akin."
"Their decision to support Akin should leave zero doubt in anyone's mind that the Republican Party and the candidates they support are downright dangerous for women," Sen. Patty Murray, the group's chair, wrote in a statement. "I expected more, but sadly, Todd Akin represents the official position of the Republican Party. All Republican Senate candidates support a Republican agenda that would pose a serious threat to women and inflict Todd Akin's extreme views on our country."
Earlier in the day, the DSCC press secretary, Shripal Shah, wrote that, "No one should've been fooled by the party's faux outrage and their ensuing change of course because as the Republican establishment is making clear today, the Akin backlash was never about principle, it was purely about politics."The independent political analysts at the Cook Political Report and Rothenberg political report says the race is "likely" or "leaning" in McCaskill's favor.
Since leaving the presidential race, Santorum has endorsed a number of candidates for Senate seats, including Texan Ted Cruz and Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock.