In one of the most closely watched and expensive U.S. Senate races in the nation, first-term Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, defeated two-term incumbent Democrat U.S. Senator, Claire McCaskill. McCaskill spent $34 million vs. Hawley’s $7 million in the race.
With some polls having shown McCaskill and Hawley dead even up to election day and others having had Hawley up by 2 to 4 points, the 6 point margin of victory surprised some political observers.
McCaskill Had Fortunate Timing in 2006 & Caught a Lucky Break in 2012
McCaskill, a former Jackson County Prosecutor and Missouri State Representative from Kansas City−who later served as Missouri State Auditor−was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006, after narrowly defeating former U.S. Senator Jim Talent in a mid-term, non-Presidential year election that was bad for Republicans.
Josh Hawley: 1,245.732 – 51%.
Claire McCaskill 1,101.377 – 45%
Talent lost to McCaskill by just a 2.3% margin. McCaskill benefited from a midterm election in 2006 when Republicans controlled the White House under former President George W. Bush. Republicans lost both U.S. House and Senate Seats that year.
Six years later, in 2012, which was a presidential election year, McCaskill got what was called a lucky break by political pundits. Former U.S. Congressman Todd Aiken narrowly won the Republican primary for Senate that year over the better funded candidate, businessman John Brunner.
Brunner had been widely considered to be better positioned to beat McCaskill as a former Marine and self-funded multi-millionaire businessman. When Aiken won the Republican primary, McCaskill−the savvy politician that she has been−targeted Republican voters with campaign ads saying Aiken was too conservative for Missouri.
Aiken was the frontrunner in the polls until he made famously infamous and controversial comments about rape, calling some rapes “legitimate rape.” He also claimed that some women who are raped spontaneously abort because of the trauma.
He tried to backtrack and explain his comments, but the enigma of his comments on his ill-advised term “legitimate rape” stuck and McCaskill took the lead, continuing to say that Aiken was too conservative for Missouri. McCaskill went on to win that race by a large 15%, which would normally be unheard of in a presidential year in Missouri.
McCaskill Faced Headwinds Against a Stronger Candidate in Hawley
This year, McCaskill faced headwinds in a non-presidential year midterm election in a state that President Trump carried two years ago by 19%. Hawley, a constitutional attorney who served as a law professor at the University of Missouri in Columbia, was elected Attorney General of Missouri in 2016.
Hawley is known as a staunch conservative and is widely viewed as a shoe-in for appointment to the Senate Judiciary Committee with Senator Charles Grassley-R, Iowa, stepping down as its Chairman. South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham is seen as his likely successor, which could open up a seat on the committee for Hawley.
Hawley Gained Notoriety Representing Hobby Lobby in the Supreme Court
As a staunch conservative, Hawley was on the legal team that successfully represented Hobby Lobby before the Supreme Court over the Obamacare mandate for employers to provide contraception coverage, even if it violates their deeply held religious beliefs.
Based upon written arguments presented by the legal team representing Hobby Lobby, of which Hawley was a member and oral arguments before the Supreme Court, the Hobby Lobby’s was upheld, striking down a lower Court ruling. That was a big win for religious freedom of which Hawley played a key role in a case in the national spotlight.
Falsely Accusing Hawley of Not Fighting Human Trafficking Didn’t Work
Ironically, McCaskill and political action committees supporting her pulled a play from their old 2012 playbook. Just like they had seized upon Aiken misspeaking about rape, the McCaskill campaign and surrogates sought to falsely attack and misrepresent Hawley over sexual crimes against women.
TV ads falsely misrepresented statements by Hawley about the sexual revolution of the 60s. They claimed Hawley said the sexual revolution of the 60s contributed to the explosion of pornography and sexual exploitation of woman since, even quoting newspapers who joined in on the negligent misrepresentation in news reporting.
The McCaskill campaign and her surrogates twisted and misrepresented Hawley’s accurate statements in a slanderous and libelous way for political gain. They falsely claimed that Hawley blamed women who are victims of sexual crimes and l exploitation, like human trafficking, as at fault for the crimes against them.
McCaskill’s campaign strategy was a ridiculous leap in logic and an abandonment of facts to create a false and misleading smear against Hawley to drive public opinion against him. Even more ridiculous was when the McCaskill camp falsely and erroneously claimed Hawley failed to act against human trafficking as Missouri’s Attorney General.
Enough Missouri voters saw through those lies. In truth, during his first 100 days in office, Hawley set up a Task Force in the Office of Missouri Attorney General to combat Human Trafficking. He has been viewed as one of the most aggressive and pro-active Attorney Generals in the nation fighting human trafficking and protecting women and children who are victims of it.
Hawley a Likely Choice for Appointment to the Senate Judiciary Committee
Hawley will join a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate that defied historical precedent and increased its majority in yesterday’s election. Republicans flipped four seats from Democrats and one seat was flipped form Republicans to Democrat with two seats in Arizona and Mississippi not called yet with provisional ballot votes still being counted, but both of those races are leaning Republican.
Republicans have a net gain of three seats in the Senate so far at this time and that could increase to four if Arizona and Mississippi are called for Republicans where their candidates hold very thin margins and could face recounts.
If the outstanding Senate seats in Arizona and Mississippi are called for Republicans, they would have a 54 to 46 majority, a gain of three seats from the current Senate where Republicans hold a 51 to 49 majority.
With both U.S. Senate seats in Missouri now held by Republicans, Hawley is positioned to become a major player in national politics, along with Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, who is already a part of the majority leadership team in the Senate.
–Dwight Widaman and Staff | Metro Voice