Major figures, major money swoop into Missouri's hot GOP Senate contest
A top official with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says it plans to continue to spend millions of dollars in its quest to defeat U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and to hopefully replace her with St. Louis businessman John Brunner.
While not disclosing how much will be spent, national chamber political director Rob Engstrom said the amount is “designed to significantly move public opinion’’ against McCaskill, and in favor of Brunner, the chamber’s preferred replacement.
“We’re trying to fundamentally change the U.S. Senate,’’ said Engstrom in a interview Thursday while campaigning in St. Louis with Brunner.
Missouri’s U.S. Senate contest, said Engstrom, is “one of the top targeted races in the country," in part because McCaskill is “the most vulnerable incumbent’’ in the Senate.
The U.S. Chamber already has spent millions of dollars on attack ads against McCaskill. Engstrom said the national organization is backing Brunner because it sees him as siding with the group’s key issues, which include lower taxes, less government spending and fewer regulations.
The chamber also has begun airing attack ads against Steelman. Engstrom asserted that Steelman is too often aligned with “trial lawyers and labor bosses.” (She has countered that she has taken sides for and against unions on various issues, and contends the chamber is targeting her because “I’m independent.”)
On Thursday, Engstrom accompanied Brunner on a daylong flyaround to highlight the national business group’s support of Brunner. Also accompanying the candidate was Tracy King, vice president of governmental affairs for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. King said the state chamber was not endorsing any of the U.S. Senate candidates, but was showing its support for the national chamber and their common goals.
The entourage stopped at Brunner's former family-owned firm, Vi-Jon, in north St. Louis County. The firm, which manufactures personal care products such as Germ-X, was sold several years ago.
Brunner took the group on a tour of the plant to promote his business acumen, which has come under attack in ads aired by Steelman, McCaskill and the Democratic-aligned Majority PAC.
During a news conference, Brunner reaffirmed his plans to “cut the spending’’ in the federal government.
When pressed for examples of his planned spending cuts, Brunner said he was looking at various proposals offered by various Republicans and conservative groups.
His one specific example was a call to “gradually raise the retirement age’’ before people could collect Social Security.
Brunner added his proposals would create more jobs. “We need more taxpayers, less people on food stamps,” he said.
So far, Brunner has put in more than $7 million of his own money into his campaign. He declined to say how much more he was willing to spend out of his own pocket. But Brunner added that he is attracting more donations, with the help of the national chamber and others.
Palin headlines BBQ for Steelman
Brunner has been attacking Steelman and Akin as “career politicians,’’ while Steelman has tagged him as “the establishment candidate.”
This evening, Steelman hopes to burnish her renegade image with a 6 p.m. barbecue in suburban Kansas City that will feature former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who also is featured in a campaign TV ad for Steelman.
On Thursday, Steelman’s campaign conducted robo-calls around the state to invite people to the Palin event, dubbed part of the “Steelman Surge’’ leading up to Tuesday’s vote.
Meanwhile, an allied SuperPAC – the “Now or Never PAC’’ – announced that it will expand its anti-Brunner ads into the St. Louis market this weekend.
The political action committee already has been running ads outstate. The donors paying for the ads include wealthy financier Rex Sinquefield and a Steelman relative.
Akin ends tour with Westport rally
Akin, meanwhile, plans to end his six-day “Leading with Courage Tour’’ with a 7 p.m event tonight at the Sheraton Lakeside Chalet in Westport Plaza.
The congressman has continued to run TV ads featuring arguably his most prominent supporter, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.