MO GOP Gearing Up for Early Challenge to Sen. McCaskill

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Senator Claire McCaskill, 2014_3223191247060986-159532

MISSOURI — The Republican Party recently signaled that the race for the U.S. Senate seat in Missouri will be among the most hotly contested battles in next year’s election.

Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill has no high profile Republican opponent yet, but the GOP has already started running ads against her.

The small buy was placed in the rural southeast Missouri Republican stronghold communities of Sikeston and Cape Girardeau.  The ad was themed to coincide with a local rodeo.

McCaskill is in the process of doing 25 town hall meetings this month, largely in heavily conservative areas such the one where the GOP placed its advertisement.  Columbia College Political Scientist Terry Smith thinks she’s taking advantage of favorable conditions compared to Republicans who’ve been hammered in public settings over health care.

“She’s getting received pretty well, unlike some of the Missouri Congressmen, and Republicans around the country who are having problematic town hall meetings.  Her’s are going pretty well.”

Missouri Republican Party Executive Director Austin Stukins thinks McCaskill is purposely scheduling her town halls with very little notice to avoid conservative voters who dominate the out-state areas.

“You’re seeing her present that she’s having a town hall with a 48-hour notice” said Stukins.  “I don’t know about you, but trying to get off of work and get kids situated at the house, especially with school starting back up, it’s really difficult.”

McCaskill spokesperson Sarah Feldman counters that emails are sent out up to a week in advance to anybody who contact’s the Senator’s office.  She also says local newspapers are contacted so they can publish dates ahead of time.

Meira Bernstein with the Missouri Democratic Party also issued a statement about town halls.  “It is laughable that the MOGOP would try to attack Claire for being responsible to her constituents and holding town halls across the state – something that Republicans in Missouri have failed to do.”

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) often brings up President Trump, who won the state by 19 points, when attacking McCaskill.  “Claire McCaskill has ignored the interests of Missouri voters and fought President Trump’s agenda at every turn,” said NRSC Spokesman Michael McAdams.

Trump approval numbers have been tanking, down to 34% in a recent Gallop daily tracking poll.  Smith says, despite Trump’s dismal ratings nationwide, Republicans are looking for a loyal base to continue to carry Missouri.

“They’re making some fairly decent assumptions that it’s big enough to, on Election Day, be 50%-plus one.  I don’t know about that because there’s so much time between now and then.  But it’s absolutely an appeal to the base.”

The Republican National Committee (RNC) has worked hard to shore up its data gathering operation after being outperformed by technology introduced and utilized to great effectiveness by Barack Obama’s Presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012.

The RNC currently has an impressive streak going with Trump’s unexpected victory in November, as well as two congressional special elections in 2018 that received a lot of attention.  Stukins says he’s looking forward to using what’s now considered a superior data program in the Missouri Senate race.

“I’m very intimately and keenly aware of how that operation is run and how it’s implemented.  I look forward to implementing some of those same practices and techniques and procedures here in Missouri.”

Three candidates have entered the race for the Republican nomination for the Senate seat.  They are Tony Monetti, a retired Air Force pilot from Warrensburg, Dan McQueen, an Iraq War veteran from Jefferson City, and Austin Petersen, who lives in Kansas City and was unsuccessful as a Libertarian running for president last year.

Far and away the biggest buzz surrounds state Attorney General Josh Hawley, who was elected to public office for the first time last November.  After being pressured by numerous high profile Republicans to throw his hat into the ring, Hawley recently announced he’d established an exploratory committee.

Perhaps the strongest prodding has come from four former Missouri GOP Senators, John Danforth, Kit Bond, John Ashcroft and Jim Talent who signed a letter several weeks ago asking Hawley to run.  Smith thinks the move carries special weight.

“Those are the heavy hitters among the elder statesman in the Missouri Republican Party.  That’s a big deal, because what that means is that the Republican establishment is with him.”

Politico also reported this week that the Club for Growth was raising $10 million to be earmarked for a Hawley run.

All the momentum building Hawley’s way may have proved too much for Republican State Treasurer Eric Schmitt, who had entertained the idea of running for the Senate seat.  He announced on Twitter Tuesday that he’s supporting Hawley.

The race for the Senate seat has been rated a “toss-up” by Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales. Republicans normally have an edge in years when there’s no Presidential contest, but Smith doesn’t necessary think it’ll be a disadvantage for Democrats like McCaskill next year.

“It certainly was in 2010 and 2014.  I think that it could be different in 2018, depending on what happens with the Trump administration an how motivated Democrats are.”

Below are McCaskill’s town hall meetings scheduled across the state through Friday.

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 16

McCaskill Public Town Hall – Bethany

9:30 a.m. CT public town hall
Media availability following the event
Toot-Toot
2905 Miller Street
Bethany, Mo. 64424

McCaskill Public Town Hall – Cameron

11:30 a.m. CT public town hall
Media availability following the event
Cameron Regional YMCA
1903 N. Walnut Street
Cameron, Mo. 64429

McCaskill Public Town Hall – Chillicothe

1:30 p.m. CT public town hall
Media availability following the event
Chillicothe Municipal Utilities
920 Washington Street
Chillicothe, Mo. 64601

McCaskill Public Town Hall – Trenton

3:30 p.m. CT public town hall
Media availability following the event
Grundy County Public Library
1331 Main Street
Trenton, Mo. 64683

THURSDAY, AUGUST 17

McCaskill Public Town Hall – Warrensburg

Thursday, August 17
11:15 a.m. CT public town hall
Media availability following the event
Matthews-Crawford American Legion – Post 131
733 E. Young Avenue
Warrensburg, Mo. 64093

McCaskill Public Town Hall – Clinton

Thursday, August 17
1:15 p.m. CT public town hall
Media availability following the event
Benson Convention Center
1008 E. Sedalia Avenue
Clinton, Mo. 64735

FRIDAY, AUGUST 18

McCaskill Public Town Hall – Harrisonville

2:00 p.m. CT public town hall
Media availability following the event
Cass County Justice Center
Sheriff’s Office Training Room
2501 W. Mechanic Street
Harrisonville, Mo. 64701


(Jason Taylor, Missourinet)

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