Red Corner: Hawley (R) vs. Blue Corner: McCaskill (D)
By Pawan Naidu
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MZ) has been Missouri’s US Senate representative since 2006. She is a former prosecutor and has been a prominent figure in Missouri politics since 1982 when she was first elected to the State Assembly. McCaskill is known as a senator willing to cross party lines and for being close to her constituents by holding many town hall meetings.
Missouri’s Attorney General, Josh Hawley, is trying to relieve the veteran politician of her Senate seat. Hawley has the endorsements of both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and President Donald Trump.
Missouri has been moving to the right in recent years with Obama narrowly losing the state in 2012 and Trump winning it by 20 points in 2016. However, McCaskill has been able to convince her constituents she is the right person to represent their interests in Washington. She was expected to have a close race against former US Rep. Todd Akin (R) in 2012, but she cruised to a comfortable win with more than a 15 point margin after her opponent claimed in an interview that a woman could not get pregnant as a result of “legitimate rape.”
Hawley is considered the future of the Republican Party and has been touted as a “once-in-a-generation” candidate by former Republican US Sen. John Danforth. However, Hawley was reluctant to join the race, because if he won he would have to resign from his position as attorney general. He has been criticized by his own party because they felt he didn’t want to win the race as much as he should.
Steven Law, president and CEO of the Senate Leadership Fund super PAC, said in a memo that Hawley, “failed to capitalize on the first several months of his candidacy, squandering valuable time to fundraise and solidify intraparty support.”
The person who might have the biggest impact on this race is neither of the candidates but the now-former governor of Missouri, Republican Eric Greitens. He has been embroiled in controversy since the start of the year with multiple accusations coming out against him. Greitens was involved in a sex scandal, where he allegedly blackmailed a woman he had an affair with. He may have also committed a crime by using a charity donor list to solicit campaign funds.
Hawley has called for Greitens’ resignation and subpoenaed him to release documents to the state legislator on possible misappropriation of campaign finance. After initially refusing to resign for months, the governor informed the public on May 29 that he is resigning. Even though Hawley has been a vocal critic of Greitens, he is still affiliated with the former governor, whose scandals will have a negative impact on the Republican Party’s chances in Missouri. Hawley was leading in the polls before the scandal, but McCaskill now has a 1.7 point lead as of the writing of this commentary, according to RealClearPolitics.
“I think we’d be fooling ourselves a little bit if we didn’t admit that Eric Greitens is now intentionally making it more difficult for us to maintain control of the US Senate,” said Gregg Keller, a longtime Missouri Republican operative who has been a vocal critic of the former governor, to CNN.
While in normal circumstances Hawley would have the edge, it’s impossible to ignore the impact that the scandals involving the former governor will have. Hawley is the darling of the GOP and will leave his mark in politics, just not this November. McCaskill should be able to hold on for another term.
Prognosis: McCaskill +3