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Akin rebuilding Mo. senate bid after remark

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Written off by many in his own party a mere month ago, Republican Rep. Todd Akin has been slowly rebuilding his Senate campaign after apologizing for inflammatory remarks about pregnancy and rape.

Now Akin is approaching a critical week that could determine whether his re-emerging campaign can gain enough momentum to put Missouri back in the battleground column as Republicans attempt to win control of the Senate.

Tuesday is the deadline for Akin to get a court order to drop his challenge of Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. But Akin says he won't do so.

Instead, he plans to ramp up his campaign. He's holding a fundraiser today with former presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. He's addressing a potentially influential group of pastors Tuesday morning. Then as the drop-out clock ticks down, he's kicking off a statewide bus tour for his Senate bid that will include venerable conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly.

"I believe the state of the campaign is looking better and better," Akin said Friday after engaging McCaskill in their first debate and then rallying on the Missouri Capitol lawn with a newly formed women-for-Akin coalition.

Akin has apologized repeatedly since a TV interview aired Aug. 19 in which he suggested that women's bodies have a natural defense against pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape."

He has repeatedly rejected calls of top national Republicans, including Mitt Romney, to quit the race so the state GOP committee can appoint a replacement candidate. Yet some have doubted his resolve.

"There are a lot of donors who have sat on the sidelines and are waiting" for Tuesday's drop-out deadline to pass, said Rick Tyler, a former Gingrich aide who has joined Akin's campaign.

"We are tilling that hard soil now -- that is, reaching out to people who could potentially give significant amounts of dollars." Come Tuesday, "those donors are going to see that Todd's going to be on the ballot," he adds.

Whether that triggers an avalanche of money for Akin is one of the most important questions for his campaign.

Akin started from behind against McCaskill financially after spending all but a few hundred thousand dollars to win a contentious Aug. 7 Republican primary.

After his rape remark, Akin lost the financial support of the Republican National Committee, the Republican senators' political committee and the deep-pocketed Crossroads group affiliated with Republican strategist Karl Rove.

That zapped millions of dollars of planned TV advertising.

Since then, Akin has raised nearly $600,000 through a small-dollar, online appeal that has cast his candidacy as an anti-establishment crusade.

Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has aided the Internet fundraising drive. But Gingrich's event today, at $500 a person or $750 per couple, will be Akin's first prominent headliner for a fundraiser in at least five weeks.

"This is an act of conscience on my part -- I didn't like seeing a guy getting beaten up by the power structure," Gingrich said.

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