Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Flake denounced comments made by this week by U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., and echoed Mitt Romney’s call for Akin to withdraw from his U.S. Senate race.

“We have to recognize what’s at stake here. We need to pick up four seats to take control of the Senate,” said Flake Tuesday at a candidate forum in SaddleBrooke. “Whether we like it or not, this is a massive distraction. I would hope that he would answer that call, and for the good of the country, step aside.”

Akin has been under pressure from Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, and the entire Republican party since he made these comments Sunday to a St. Louis TV station about his his staunch opposition to abortion even in the case of women getting pregnant after a rape.

"From what I understand from doctors, that's really rare," Akin said. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child."

He apologized on Monday, saying he used the “wrong words in the wrong way,” but he has refused to step down.

Wil Cardon, Flake’s principal challenger in the GOP Senate primary, said Tuesday in SaddleBrooke that he doesn’t know Akin well but agreed the comments were out of line.

“If his heart is aligned with his comments, he should definitely step down,” Cardon said.

But after saying that, he offered these comments:

“Otherwise he should apologize and not become the career politician like everyone else seems to become who says, ‘Well, he made a mistake and now he needs to step down,’” Cardon said. “We all make mistakes and we need people who stand up and say, ‘I made a mistake’ and move on.”

During his answer, Cardon alluded to the fact that Flake worked with Akin on an abortion bill. Democrats have been pointing out Flake’s connection to Akin as well on a past abortion bill.

They are referring to the fact that Flake and Akin were among 227 co-sponsors to HR3, a bill that prevents taxpayer funding for abortion.

The original bill added the word, “forcible” to “rape,” causing backlash from those who felt the bill was trying to redefine rape by excluding victims of statutory rape and incest from taxpayer-funded abortions.

Asked about his sponsorship of the bill, Flake pointed out that the final bill did not include the language about forcible rape.

“I have always said that there should be exceptions for rape, for incest, and for the life of the mother,” said Flake Tuesday following an appearance at the Pima County Republican luncheon.

Flake said he’s been criticized by some right-wing groups due to that position but that’s he sticking to it. He said he doesn’t differentiate between different types of rape.

“Rape is rape,” Flake said. “Forcible rape seems redundant to me.”

Earlier this week, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Richard Carmona called Akin's remarks a "stunning display of ignorance."

"Akin's divisive and ideologically-driven attempt to define a 'legitimate rape' is absolutely outrageous and makes it nearly impossible to have an honest debate about women's health care," Carmona said in a Facebook post.

Stay tuned to the Pueblo Politics blog throughout 2012 for news, updates and information about Arizona politics. You can follow Arizona Daily Star reporters Brady McCombs, Becky Pallack and Tim Steller on Twitter.