McCaskill faces ’18 chal­lenge from within her party

Up­start vows to rep­re­sent San­ders wing of the Democrats

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

Sen. Claire McCaskill al­ready was an­tic­i­pat­ing a tough fight from Repub­li­cans as she seeks a third term, but her path got even trick­ier this month when she found out she now faces a chal­lenge from her left as well.

Ms. McCaskill is per­haps the most vul­ner­a­ble Demo­crat in the Sen­ate head­ing into next year, where she will try to de­fend her seat in Mis­souri, a state that’s tilted heav­ily to­ward Repub­li­cans in re­cent years.

The Na­tional Repub­li­can Se­na­to­rial Com­mit­tee has been show­er­ing Ms. McCaskill with crit­i­cism for months, ac­cus­ing her of join­ing fel­low Democrats in ob­struct­ing Pres­i­dent Trump’s agenda.

An­other GOP-aligned group, Mis­souri Ris­ing Ac­tion, has formed a po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee in­tended to en­tice Mis­souri At­tor­ney Gen­eral Josh Haw­ley to jump into the race to chal­lenge the two-term se­na­tor.

The left has its own com­plaints about Ms. McCaskill, and 31-year-old An­gel­ica Earl jumped into the race this month, vow­ing to mount a pri­mary chal­lenge while rep­re­sent­ing the Bernard San­ders pro­gres­sive wing of the Demo­cratic Party, with a push for sin­gle-payer health care, looser mar­i­juana laws and compassion train­ing for po­lice of­fi­cers.

“McCaskill prob­a­bly is the most vul­ner­a­ble Sen­ate Demo­crat both be­cause of Mis­souri’s turn to the right over the past decade or so and a de­cent chance that she’ll have a strong chal­lenger, likely state At­tor­ney Gen­eral Josh Haw­ley,” said Kyle Kondik of the Uni­ver­sity of Vir­ginia’s Cen­ter for Pol­i­tics.

Non­par­ti­san po­lit­i­cal hand­i­cap­pers view the con­test as a tossup right now, and say Ms. McCaskill has sev­eral things going for her.

She’s avoided sev­eral ma­jor chal­lengers on both sides of the aisle. Rep. Ann Wag­ner, a Repub­li­can, took a pass on the race, as did former Sec­re­tary of State Ja­son Kan­der, a Demo­crat who has emerged a fa­vorite of pro­gres­sives after nearly up­set­ting GOP Sen. Roy Blunt in 2016.

“As Ja­son has said nu­mer­ous times, he is going to do ev­ery­thing he can to help his good friend Claire McCaskill get re-elected in 2018,” said Austin Laufer­sweiler, a spokesman for Mr. Kan­der’s new ven­ture, Let America Vote, an ef­fort to push back against Pres­i­dent Trump’s claims of voter fraud.

Should Ms. McCaskill sur­vive the pri­mary, an­a­lysts said she’ll ben­e­fit in the gen­eral elec­tion from his­tor­i­cal trends that make midterm elec­tions a ref­er­en­dum on the sit­ting pres­i­dent.

“McCaskill should not be un­der­es­ti­mated,” Mr. Kondik said. “If [Hil­lary] Clin­ton was in the White House, she’d prob­a­bly be in … deep trou­ble. But with Trump in the White House, the party out of the White House gets a boost his­tor­i­cally.”

The NRSC re­leased a new rodeothemed ra­dio ad last week try­ing to paint Ms. McCaskill as be­ing out of touch with the Mis­souri vot­ers who handed Mr. Trump an 18-point win in the state last year.

“She says she is will­ing to work with Repub­li­cans, but she has fought Pres­i­dent Trump all the way,” the nar­ra­tor says in the ad. “McCaskill was all-in for Hil­lary, called her heads above the field. OK, well, elec­tion is over, your horse lost, time to move on, and since Trump be­came pres­i­dent, McCaskill has fought him tooth and nail.”

The McCaskill cam­paign did not re­spond to an email seek­ing com­ment.

Meira Bern­stein, a spokesman for the Mis­souri Demo­cratic Party, dis­missed the at­tacks, say­ing Ms. McCaskill has put her con­stituents first, worked with Mr. Trump on leg­is­la­tion and voted to con­firm more than half of the pres­i­dent’s cam­paign nom­i­nees.

“Na­tional Repub­li­cans’ at­tempt to claim oth­er­wise is just smoke and mir­rors from a party that is pin­ning its hope of de­feat­ing a strong, Mis­souri-first se­na­tor on a can­di­date who broke his prom­ise to Mis­souri­ans not to be an­other lad­der­climb­ing politi­cian just eight months after tak­ing of­fice,” Ms. Ber­stein said.

A FiveThir­tyEight anal­y­sis shows that Ms. McCaskill has voted 42.6 per­cent of the time in line with the Trump agenda.

She voted against the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s push for an Oba­macare re­peal, the con­fir­ma­tion of Neil M. Gor­such to the U.S. Supreme Court and Jeff Ses­sions to be at­tor­ney gen­eral. She sup­ported the White House’s push to re­peal a stream pro­tec­tion rule, Rick Perry’s nom­i­na­tion to be en­ergy sec­re­tary and Ryan Zinke’s nom­i­na­tion as in­te­rior sec­re­tary.

In ad­di­tion to Mr. Haw­ley, sev­eral other Repub­li­cans are con­sid­er­ing run­ning for the nom­i­na­tion: former Mis­souri GOP chief Ed Martin, state Rep. Paul Curt­man, state Trea­surer Eric Sch­mitt and state Rep. Vicky Hart­zler.


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