Gee, Anything Going On In Missouri That Might Affect The US Senate Race? Let's Crimesplore!
Claire McCaskill and her authentic Battlestar Galactica-style corded phone.
For someone who's at the top of just about every pundit's list of "most endangered Democratic senators," Claire McCaskill looks to have at least a reasonable shot at retaining her US Senate seat this fall, thanks to a key problem with Missouri's GOP: The entire party is just crawling with Missouri Republicans. You know, the sort of people who think St. Louis-based Jim Hoft, the Stupidest Man on the Internet, is a pretty swift political thinker. And this year, Missouri Republicans are very busy dealing with their Incredible Imploding Governor, Eric Greitens, who remains in office despite credible accusations that he sexually assaulted and tried to blackmail a hairdresser in 2015. In the latest twist in the Greitens mess, the state legislature voted this week to hold a special session to consider impeaching Greitens over his rapey behavior and, hey, while they're at it, some dirty campaign fundraising, too.
The ugly bag of nasty sitting in the governor's office could turn out to be quite helpful for McCaskill, not simply because Missouri Republicans are busy fighting each other over Greitens, who still has supporters, somehow, but also because her likely opponent after the August primary will be state Attorney General Josh Hawley. Hawley is, as Yr Five Dollar Feminist has pointed out, A Idiot. Hawley's office announced in April that Greitens's use of a fundraising list belonging to a veterans charity he ran may have involved criminal behavior. McCaskill's campaign is happy to point out, however, that Greitens's misuse of the email list had first been reported way back in 2016. After Hawley's office turned its evidence over to a prosecutor in St. Louis, McCaskill's campaign issued a statement saying,
We're glad that Hawley has come out of hiding to acknowledge the existing evidence of criminal behavior of the Governor. However, the sad truth is that this shows gross incompetence on the part of the attorney general.
Hawley's campaign is trying to spin his willingness to call out a fellow Republican as proof of his integrity -- Hawley also called on Greitens to resign after a legislative report on the assault allegations. But with Hawley's office only forwarding the criminal evidence to a prosecutor after Greitens had already been charged in relation to the disgusting rapey stuff, that looks less like a profile in courage than a last-minute attempt to put some distance between Hawley and an ally who'd finally started hurting him politically.
This isn't the first time Republican self-owns have turned to McCaskill's advantage. In 2012, the pundit class was writing McCaskill's political obituary thanks to the rise of the Tea Party loons, but then one of those loons, US Rep. Todd Akin, won the Republican primary. McCaskill's campaign had calculated Akin would be the weakest of the GOP candidates, and ran a famous ad during the Republican primary declaring Akin "too conservative" for Missouri, which was simply a classic bit of campaigning:
You can't really call it ratfucking, since ratfucking is done in secret. This was McCaskill overtly saying "Oh, PLEASE don't nominate this incredibly conservative fellow, he just really hates Obama and abortion!" After winning the primary, Akin promptly declared there was no reason for a rape exception in anti-abortion laws, since after a "legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." McCaskill thumped Akin in the general election.
This time around, McCaskill hasn't had a hand in choosing a terrible Republican opponent for the fall, but the chaos on the Republican side has a lot of big donors hesitant about throwing money at Hawley, whose fundraising is well behind McCaskill's. McCaskill, for her part, makes the case that Hawley isn't merely tarnished by the Greitens scandal, he's been downright negligent in pursuing it:
“There is one thing that is very clear: Josh Hawley ran for office saying he was going to clean up public corruption,” Ms. McCaskill said Thursday during a brief interview in Washington. “So far, he whiffed.”
She continued: “He absolutely blew an investigation into destruction of records. Third, he’s relied on the legislature to do an investigation into this affair. And fourth, he’s allowed another prosecutor to take the lead in terms of any criminal conduct.”
“This doesn’t sound like the guy who ran for office saying he was going to clean up public corruption,” she concluded. “This sounds like somebody who is hiding under his desk.”
And while Hawley has so far managed not to pull an outright Akin, it's doubtful he'll win many hearts and minds outside the committed right wing with his strange explanation of how feminists caused sexual harassment:
You know what I’m talking about, the 1960s, 1970s, it became commonplace in our culture among our cultural elites, Hollywood, and the media, to talk about, to denigrate the biblical truth about husband and wife, man and woman. […]
We have a human trafficking crisis in our state and in this city and in our country because people are willing to purchase women, young women, and treat them like commodities. There is a market for it. Why is there? Because our culture has completely lost its way. The sexual revolution has led to exploitation of women on a scale that we would never have imagined, never have imagined.
It's no "legitimate rape," but it seems unlikely to play so well outside rightwing Christian circles -- although those are exactly the circles Hawley is relying on, so who knows? It's unclear how much Hawley's chances will be tainted by Greitens, but so far, all indications are that Greitens doesn't intend to stop rubbing his taint everywhere he can -- he's busy blaming George Soros for his problems.
Polling so far has generally scored the race as a dead heat, and all the big political forecasting outfits are calling it a tossup. McCaskill certainly can't be too happy about a new Morning Consult poll showing she has only a 38 percent approval rating, with 45 percent disapproval, and worse, 53 percent of respondents agreeing with the statement it's “time for a new person” in the Senate. As we keep saying this year, if Democrats want to retake the Senate, Democratic incumbents from states won by Trump have to be reelected, and that means yes, we need to reelect red-state Dems like McCaskill, who may not vote with Elizabeth Warren on everything but are solidly with the party mainstream on protecting abortion rights and women's economic empowerment, and preventing the Rs from dismantling the ACA.
Fortunately for Claire McCaskill, while she still faces a tough election, the complete madness on the Republican side may work to her advantage. As John Hancock (who names their kid that?!), the former chair of the Missouri GOP, told Politico, the Greitens scandals are taking up all the attention in Missouri politics:
I'm going to start having Claire McCaskill buy my lottery tickets. She's a lucky duck [...]
If you want to go out and talk tax reform, if you want to go out and talk about other things, you can — but you really won't have any coverage because all that's coming out in Missouri is about the scandals.
A summer that's filled with impeachment -- and all the crazy likely to come out of that -- can only help McCaskill, too. You know, you might even want to send her a few bucks!
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