CHICAGO – Senate candidate Jack Ryan (search), facing embarrassing sex allegations in his divorce records, canceled his fund-raising trip to Washington on Thursday amid signs of declining support from Republican leaders.
Spokeswoman Kelli Phiel denied rumors that he is considering withdrawing from the race, saying "Jack Ryan is in the race to stay."
GOP Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (search), who spoke with the embattled candidate by phone, said he didn't know whether Ryan is considering an exit, but added, "I hope he does not."
Ryan had been considered an underdog in the race against Democratic rival Barack Obama (search) even before the politically damaging divorce papers were made public on Monday. In the records unsealed on a judge's order, Ryan's former wife said he insisted she go to sex clubs with him and tried to pressure her to perform sex acts while others watched.
Ryan denied the allegations. His former wife, actress Jeri Lynn Ryan (search), issued a statement earlier this week saying she considers him a good man and loving father.
The disclosures stunned fellow Illinois Republicans, some of whom called on Ryan to step down and allow a replacement candidate to take his place on the ballot.
Others, Fitzgerald among them, expressed their support. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (search) has maintained a public silence on the issue.
Phiel said emphatically that Ryan would remain in the race. "We are not reassessing. Jack Ryan is in the race to stay. Jack Ryan will be in the race on November 2," she said.
She said the Republican candidate called off the trip after a fund-raiser with Hastert was canceled on Wednesday because Hastert had a conflicting meeting on terrorism.
"We made the determination that Jack's time today was better spent in Illinois," Ryan campaign communications director Bill Pascoe said.
Ryan also had been scheduled to appear Thursday with Fitzgerald, the Republican Ryan is campaigning to replace, and at another fund-raiser with Sen. George Allen of Virginia, the chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Fitzgerald told The Associated Press in Washington that he talked with Ryan Thursday morning for about 20 minutes and still believes he is the party's best candidate.
If Ryan were persuaded to withdraw, he said, it would "almost for certain" that the Republicans would lose the Senate seat.
Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference whom Ryan has repeatedly mentioned among politicians supporting his campaign, also said Ryan gave no indication he would withdraw.
"I didn't recommend that he do so," Santorum said. "From my perspective, the people of Illinois should make that determination, not the people here in Washington, D.C. My sense is that this is an issue that the people of Illinois are going to have to put into the mix."
His two closest Republican opponents in the March primary, businessman James Oberweis and state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger, said they would consider replacing Ryan on the ballot if party leaders asked them to.
Ryan, a millionaire investment banker-turned-teacher, has said his campaign will survive the allegations and stressed that he didn't break the law, his marriage vows or the Ten Commandments.