JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — An aide to former Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said Thursday that he is joining the U.S. Senate campaign of embattled Missouri congressman Todd Akin, a high-profile addition as Akin seeks to refurbish his image following inflammatory remarks about rape and pregnancy.

Former Gingrich aide Rick Tyler confirmed his move Thursday to The Associated Press and said he had already arrived in St. Louis.

Tyler’s addition came on the same day he took part in a small parade of vehicles in the rural northwestern Missouri town of Bethany, marking his first public interaction with voters since a TV interview aired Aug. 19 in which Akin asserted that women’s bodies have ways of averting pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape.”

Since then, Akin has repeatedly apologized while rebuffing requests from top Republicans that he drop his challenge of Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.

Akin has been shunned by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the chairman of the Republican National Committee and all five living Republicans who have represented Missouri in the Senate, among many others. The political arm of the Senate Republicans and the deep-pocketed Crossroads conservative organization also have said they will pull their ads from Missouri if Akin remains in the race.

Akin has been battling back by seeking small-dollar donations online while attempting to shore up his socially conservative base.

“This particular race has become such a big deal that we’re receiving money now from all over the country,” Akin said Wednesday in an interview with St. Louis television station KTVI, which had aired his original remarks.

Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has reaffirmed his endorsement of Akin, as have more than 100 pastors and religious leaders. Akin also has received a vote of confidence from the Republican committee in St. Charles County, a heavily Republican area and the state’s third-largest county.

Tyler will bring additional experience in public communications to Akin’s campaign. He worked with Gingrich’s private-sector endeavors after Gingrich’s time as House speaker, and he had served as Gingrich’s presidential campaign spokesman until a falling out in June 2011. Tyler later rejoined Gingrich’s camp, serving as an adviser to an independent political action committee called “Winning Our Future,” which was set up to aid Gingrich’s efforts.

Akin has been slowly re-engaging in campaigning since his remarks sparked a political uproar. He first apologized on conservative radio shows and flew to the Ohio headquarters of his media strategists to record an apology video that was broadcast on TV stations across the state. Akin then traveled to Tampa, Fla., where he met with conservative leaders and has since done additional radio and television interviews.

In Harrison County, located on the Iowa border, Akin wore jeans and a blue button-down shirt during Thursday’s short and informal parade along Bethany’s main street to the grounds of the Northwest Missouri State Fair.

Akin rode a short distance in a white pickup truck before getting out to shake a few hands along the route. As the vehicles sped up, Akin broke into a run, then accepted a ride from a passing Jeep.

At the fairgrounds, Akin shook a few more hands, stopped by a Republican Party table and left without speaking publicly. A few local politicians also were in attendance, as well as journalists from regional and national media outlets.

Akin has scheduled a full day of traditional campaigning on Friday in northwest Missouri and suburban Kansas City.