(AP) JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The Missouri Farm Bureau reaffirmed its endorsement of Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin on Tuesday after the Republican congressman made remarks about women's bodies being able to avoid pregnancy in cases of what he called "legitimate rape."
The Farm Bureau's decision comes just over a month after members of its political action committees voted by an overwhelming 99 percent to support Akin over Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill. The Farm Bureau did not disclose the exact percentage of support Akin won in the new vote, but it said the results were similar.
In an unprecedented move for the Farm Bureau, its political committees decided to reconsider their endorsement after Akin's remarks about rape aired Aug. 19 on a St. Louis television station. Akin has apologized repeatedly since then and has rejected numerous calls by top Republicans -- including GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney -- to drop out of the Senate race so that the state Republican committee can pick a replacement candidate.
The Farm Bureau held a series of conference calls over the past week to poll its members about Akin. The organization requires at least a two-thirds vote to make an endorsement.
"During the conference calls, some of our members brought up the statement made by Congressman Akin last month; however, they accepted his apology and reaffirmed this election is still about issues such as moving our country in a better direction, getting the federal deficit under control, eliminating needless government regulations and creating more jobs," Blake Hurst, president of Missouri Farm Bureau, said in a written statement.
Since his remarks, Akin has lost the support of some deep-pocketed political groups, including the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the conservative Crossroads group affiliated with Republican strategist Karl Rove. Both entities dropped plans to air millions of dollars of ads in Missouri. Akin has instead turned to soliciting small-dollar donations over the Internet.
The Missouri Farm Bureau's endorsement can result in contributions to candidates. But with branches covering all Missouri counties, the Farm Bureau's greatest strength often has been its network of rural voters.
Since it began making U.S. Senate endorsements in 1982, the Missouri Farm Bureau has always backed the Republican candidate.