By Alan W. Cohen
How would you like to be the Democrat senator in a state that has a veto proof majority Republican legislature, a newly minted Republican governor, and voted for the Republican for President by a double-digit margin?
Welcome to the world of Missouri senator Claire McCaskill. In 2012, McCaskill trounced Republican Todd Akin 54.7 percent to 39.2 percent, while Romney won the state by a margin of 53.8 to 44.4 percent. In an article she penned for Politico in 2015, McCaskill explained how she, in Nixon-est fashion (Richard, not Jay), was able to manipulate the process to run against who she believed to be the weakest opponent:
“I began to consider whether it would be useful to help Akin spread his message, keeping in mind that he was the weakest fundraiser out of the three potential nominees.
Akin’s track record made him my ideal opponent. Many of his votes in Congress contradicted his claim of being a fiscal conservative. While he opposed President Barack Obama’s authority to raise the debt limit, during the Bush administration, in 2004, he had voted to raise the limit by $800 billion. A vocal opponent of the Obama administration’s stimulus efforts, in 2001 Akin had voted in favor of a $25 billion stimulus package that mostly benefited large corporations and the wealthy. And he was a big earmarker: in one fiscal year he sponsored or cosponsored $14 million worth of pork and once sought $3.3 million in a special appropriation for a highway near nine acres he owned and was planning to develop. While opposing spending money for child nutrition programs, veterans’ health benefits, and disaster relief, he repeatedly voted to raise his own salary.
His extreme positions on social issues and ridiculous public statements made him anathema to many independent voters. He sponsored an amendment that would define life as beginning at conception, thereby outlawing common forms of birth control. He voted against repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” legislation. When the Affordable Care Act was being debated, he stood on the House floor and asked for God’s help in keeping the nation from “socialized medicine.””
That was the past. In 2012, voters continued to adore their Democrat governor, Jay Nixon, who balanced out the state legislature that was becoming increasingly Republican. McCaskill, who battled cancer in 2016, will have no such ally this time around. That is why her vote to support the filibuster of Judge Gorsuch was so telling. She could easily have joined Joe Manchin of West Virginia, another Democrat senator from a Trump loving state. Her vote would have been meaningless in the overall scheme. Yet, she chose to join with her Trump hating colleagues to shown disdain for a moderate, highly qualified candidate. And, its not like she is worried about getting “primary-ed.” There is no Democrat that would challenge her, regardless of her vote. Her seat is vital to the Democrats. And, thus, McCaskill doesn’t have to worry about funding.
So Claire McCaskill, facing an embarrassing defeat, must be planning on retiring, leaving the Democrats to draft the once popular Jay Nixon to take on an unknown Republican opponent in a very red state.
Alan W. Cohen practiced law in the St. Louis area for more than 25 years before retiring. He is the author of several books, the most recent being Private Vows: The Case for Ending State Regulation of Marriage and Divorce. It is available on Amazon.