Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is backing the embattled Senate bid of Rep. Todd Akin, background.

Story highlights

After controversial comments on rape, Todd Akin pressured by GOP leaders to drop out

Missouri congressman still has some support from conservatives

Some Republican strategists admit Missouri situation damages hopes of winning Senate control

Washington CNN  — 

Instead giving in to fellow Republicans desperate for him to drop out of the Missouri Senate race, a defiant Todd Akin gathered conservative supporters and launched a campaign bus tour.

“I have one purpose going into November and that’s replacing [Democratic Senator] Claire McCaskill,” the congressman said to an applauding crowd in St. Louis on Tuesday, the last day state law permitted him to remove his name from the ballot.

“A number of people have asked me if I’m dropping out,” said Akin, whose controversial comments on rape and pregnancy in August triggered a national uproar and turned him into a political pariah.

He added that this is “not my decision,” but rather the decision of Republican voters who chose him this summer as their candidate against McCaskill in a race considered crucial for control of the Senate.

Akin ad focuses on McCaskill