While democrats point to several recent victories in state-wide races across the nation as a coming wave in the fall, the news isn’t good for Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill. A poll shows Attorney General Josh Hawley opening a sizable lead in this year’s Missouri U.S. Senate race. The Axios tabulation gauged twelve Senate races in which Democrats are defending seats in states won by President Trump in the 2016 election.
In Missouri, Hawley holds an eight-point lead over two-term incumbent McCaskill. The margin of 52% to 44% is biggest lead for either candidate in what previous polls had indicated was a tight race with a slight edge for Hawley.
A CNN analysis in February ranked the Missouri race as the Democratic Senate seat most likely to flip in 2018. Missouri had previously been a battleground state but has voted solidly Republican in recent years, with Trump winning the state by 19 points.
After a Democratic wave across the country helped sweep McCaskill into office in 2006, she was considered vulnerable in 2012. But after severe missteps by Republican challenger Todd Akin, she won a landslide reelection.
But to win Hawley needs money. At last check, he was significantly underperforming in fundraising, ending 2017 with $1.2 million on hand after having raised $958,000 for the year. By comparison, McCaskill raised $3 million and had more than $9 million in the bank. McCaskill also has the benefit of having liberal billionaire George Soros funding opposition to Hawley.
Money could be moving in Hawley’s direction now. President Trump recently anchored a fundraiser for him in St. Louis. The widening gap in the Axios poll could motivate other Republicans on the national level to direct more money into the Missouri race.
After filing paperwork on the first day to run for the 2018 election, Hawley still hasn’t become the Republican nominee as Missouri holds its primary election on August 7. He is heavily favored over five lesser-known candidates to face McCaskill in November’s general election.
In the survey only two other incumbent Senate Democrats up for reelection fared worse than McCaskill – Joe Manchin of West Virginia (43%-52%) and John Tester of Montana (42%-55%). Both men were polled against a generic Republican as no formidable GOP candidate has surfaced in either state.
Observers say that is unusual for incumbents to lose to an “anybody but” choice.
Polling this year shows President Trump’s approval rating to be steady at anywhere from 45 to 49 percent. Those numbers are higher than the polling results for President Obama at the same time in his first year as president.
Other polls indicate that the Democrat “wave” may not materialize for the part as the media reports. In states where Trump won, his polling is well ahead of the national numbers and Republican candidates are faring much better.