No rest for the winners of Missouri primaries, as both face new attacks
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and her Republican rival – U.S. Rep. Todd Akin – will both be hitting the rural roads next week to begin, in earnest, their battle to win the hearts, minds – and votes – of Missourians.
Although McCaskill’s first post-primary kickoff stops are today in St. Louis, and Wednesday in Kansas City, the urban Democratic strongholds are simply detours in a contest that appears likely to largely to be fought on farm fields in admittedly Republican territory.
For Akin, the aim is to amass huge blocs of Republican support that can’t be overcome by McCaskill’s acknowledged urban edge. McCaskill’s re-election will hinge on her success or failure in keeping Akin’s advantage under 55 percent of the rural vote.
(Start of update) Both candidates plan to appear Friday before the Missouri Farm Bureau, and both also plan to attend the Missouri State Fair, underway in Sedalia, Mo. McCaskill says she plans to camp out in her campaign RV on the fairgrounds. (End of update)
The state Republican Party on Wednesday heralded Tuesday’s primary vote, in which Republicans outnumbered Democrats by more than two-to-one, as evidence of a wave of GOP enthusiasm that can’t be stopped.
The GOP pointed out that the Democratic turnout in Missouri was the lowest since 1998, while the number of Republicans was the largest since 2004 – when a gay marriage ban was on the primary ballot.
Said state GOP executive director Lloyd Smith: “Across the state, Republican voters are motivated and excited to elect conservatives while Democrats are tired of defending four years of failed, job-killing policies from Barack Obama and his allies, Claire McCaskill and Jay Nixon.”
State Democratic Party chairman Mike Sanders replied later, “The Republicans are focused on insider jargon like 'turnout' because they can't talk about the flawed candidates they just nominated.”
National Democrats zero in on Akin
The political sparring, on a national and state level, began just hours after Akin celebrated Tuesday’s big primary victory over Republican rivals John Brunner – who had led in most polls – and Sarah Steelman.
Akin swiftly found himself the target of a barrage of incoming Democratic attacks that focused on his past in hopes of deep-sixing his political future.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee was circulating nationally a critical Washington Post article that brought up some of the congressman’s most colorful comments and compared him to 2010’s headline-grabbing – and unsuccessful -- Republican Senate nominee in Connecticut, Christine O’Donnell, known for such statements as “I am not a witch.”
“Akin, unlike O’Donnell, doesn’t just have a history of outsized public statements; he has an actual voting record to go along with it,” the article said.
Among the notable Akin gems has been his comparison of federal student-loan programs to “stage three cancer of socialism” and his observation that some liberals espouse a “hatred of God.”
His potentially controversial votes include some against federal programs for autism and the federal school-lunch program, as well as his opposition to Medicare’s prescription drug benefit. Akin also has called for ending the public election of U.S. senators, and returning to the earlier practice of allowing legislatures to choose them.
(Start of update) McCaskill took a similar approach at Thursday's event held at the Halcyon Shade Company, 1600 South 39th Street.
As she did at Wednesday’s campaign kickoff, McCaskill hammered away at the same themes that she has highlighted for weeks. Akin, she contended, is out to privatize Social Security and Medicare, and to destroy government-backed student loans.
"He is a sincere and pleasant man,'' McCaskill said. "Unfortunately, his views would be unpleasant for Missouri families."
McCaskill’s campaign also has unveiled a new anti-Akin web site, http://www.truthaboutakin.com. A sign with the web site was posted in front of the senator's lectern, as she addressed supporters in the company's warehouse.
Akin's campaign doesn't dispute the voting record that McCaskill is attacking. Rather, his campaign says that highlighting his votes actually will help him attract more conservative support. (End of update)
McCaskill faces new attacks
McCaskill’s first two kickoff stops hint at a different campaign strategy than six years ago, when she launched her U.S. Senate bid from the rural town of Houston, Mo., where she spent her early childhood.
But a closer look at her schedule indicate that the Kansas City and St. Louis stops won't be the norm for her campaign, at least for the next few weeks.
McCaskill is scheduled to be in Houston next Tuesday, for example, to discuss federal farm policies. A spokesman said she will be "crisscrossing the state'' the rest of August, much as she did in 2006.
Mirroring her first Senate bid, McCaskill also has an eye-catching campaign van that already has burned a lot of miles on rural roads. The difference is that this year, compared to 2006, the senator’s travels haven’t attracted as much pre-primary attention.
Instead, the focus has been on the deluge of SuperPAC attack ads -- $15 million worth, according to some estimates – that have been spent by national conservative groups out to knock off McCaskill, deemed the most politically threatened Democrat seeking re-election.
On Wednesday, one of them -- Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (GPS) -- launched a new ad that "calls on Claire McCaskill to stop supporting tax increases on job creators and families."
That's an apparent reference to the Bush tax cuts set to expire at the end of this year, unless Congress reaches a deal. President Barack Obama and many Democrats want to allow the cuts to expire on people who earn more than $250,000 a year.
The chief Republican lines of attack against McCaskill have sought to cast her as a big-spending liberal, and have focused on her support for many of the Obama administration's proposals
Crossroads says it's spending close to $900,000 to run the attack ads -- a large buy that will allow the spot to run heavily on many rural TV stations.
(Start of update) Meanwhile, a Missouri group -- The Coalition to Protect Missouri Jobs -- announced Thursday that it had released a new video that asserts McCaskill has continued "to 'dodge' questions from small business owners and employees regarding her position on micro-unions."
"Micro-unions" is a name that business groups and allies use to describe smaller unions that only represent part of a workplace's employees. The National Labor Relations Board has allowed the practice in recent years; business groups want to prevent micro-unions, contending that one union should have to win an election to represent all of a business' workers, or none of them.
“It’s time that Claire McCaskill stopped dodging the question and come clean with Missourians,” said Jason Klindt, state director of the Coalition to Protect Missouri Jobs. “Either she stands with job creators or she stands with Big Labor. Which is it?” (End of update)
Akin ramps up new campaign operation
Akin, meanwhile, is still getting adjusted to the national spotlight in his new role as Republican nominee. Spokesman Ryan Hite said the congressman’s campaign is adding staff, and preparing for the final phase of his Senate bid.
The Democratic attacks, said Hite, generally focus on stances that Akin is proud to embrace. As a result, they’re “not necessarily bad," the spokesman said, because Akin believes many Missouri voters share his views of less government and lower taxes.
“He believes in a certain set of principles and he tried to vote in line with that,’’ Hite said. “There’s not going to be a backing or running away from any statements he’s made or votes that he’s taken.”
Akin’s contest with McCaskill, the spokesman added, will offer “a clear and very strong contrast for the voters of Missouri.”
McCaskill couldn’t agree more.