DENVER - Most Coloradans, like most Americans, probably hadn't ever heard of Congressman Todd Akin before this weekend, when the Missouri GOP senate candidate went out of his way to assert that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant.
The gaffe not only has Republicans fretting over whether Akin has blown an opportunity to unseat Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill -- it also has Democrats back on offense in a wider effort to paint Republicans, from Mitt Romney on down the 2012 ticket, as hostile to women.
"The views were expressed were offensive. Rape is rape," said President Obama, who took questions from the White House press corps Monday for the first time in months. "We shouldn't have a bunch of politicians, most of whom are men, making healthcare decisions for a bunch of women."
In an email sent Sunday night, DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz went further in attempting to link Akin's views to the entire GOP ticket.
"Akin's choice of words isn't the real issue here," she wrote in the email. "The real issue is a Republican party — led by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan — whose policies on women and their health are dangerously wrong."
Akin tried to apologize Monday, but his funding is drying up and many top Republicans are pressuring him to consider quitting the race, as his candidacy continues to overshadow the Party's larger message less than one week before the opening of the Republican National Convention in Tampa Bay, Fla.
"These are clearly not the issues Republicans want to fight over in 2012," said political analyst Eric Sondermann. "I think it definitely can hurt Mitt Romney. It certainly, at the very best, takes Republicans off track for a week or more; and, at the worst, it risks becoming definitional for a lot of women voters out there."
Republicans, including Romney, are trying to distance themselves from Akin, the Tea Party candidate who won a three-way GOP primary for the right to challenge McCaskill earlier this month.
"Congressman’s Akin comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong,” Romney said on Monday. “Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive.
“I have an entirely different view. What he said is entirely without merit and he should correct it.”
But unlike Romney, Congressman Paul Ryan sponsored House Resolution 3, the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions Act", which, for a time, included Akin-like language limiting the definition of rape and incest in certain cases as it relates to whether a woman could get an abortion with federal Medicaid funding.
Ryan wasn't alone.
Three of four Colorado Republicans in Congress also added their names to H.R. 3 as co-sponsors: Congressman Cory Gardner of Yuma, Congressman Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs and Congressman Mike Coffman of Aurora.
Under H.R. 3, Republicans had proposed that the rape exemption be limited to "forcible rape," effectively ruling out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible -- rapes where force was not involved or couldn't be proved.
Amidst an outcry over the redefinition of rape, Republicans changed the language from the amendment banning federal funding for abortions through Medicaid and removed the "forcible" designation.
Coffman, who is facing a challenge from Democrat Joe Miklosi in Colorado's 6th Congressional District, sent FOX31 Denver a statement on Akin's comment that did not address his own position on H.R. 3.
"Rep. Akin's comments were wrong, inappropriate and hurtful to women across the country," Coffman said in the statement. "I strongly urge Rep. Akin to take a look at the reality of the situation and consider what is best for our country before proceeding with his campaign."
Miklosi, in an interview with FOX31, compared Coffman to Rush Limbaugh.
"When you add your name as a co-sponsor to legislation, it means you support not just the theme but the actual language," Miklosi told FOX31 Denver. "This bill redfeines rape. It adds the word forcible. What kind of rape isn't forcible? I just feel like he doesn't get it."