J. KARL MILLER: McCaskill vs. Akin for U.S. Senate — an intriguing contest

Wednesday, August 15, 2012 | 5:10 p.m. CDT; updated 10:32 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, August 15, 2012

COLUMBIA — Now that the Missouri primaries have determined the who in the contested intraparty races, Missouri just might entertain the most anticipated and lively contest for a U.S. Senate seat in the country. The face-off between the incumbent, Claire McCaskill, and Congressman Todd Akin might be the decider as to who controls the Senate.

Targeted as perhaps the most vulnerable Senate Democrat by the GOP, McCaskill was elected in 2006 — the year Republicans lost both the Senate and the House in a rout to the Democrats. Moreover, for the first time in history, in 2006, not one Republican wrested a gubernatorial, House or Senate seat from a sitting Democrat.

In 2012, Sen. McCaskill is believed beatable for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the unique circumstance that helped her to victory in 2006. Her purported vulnerability is further heightened by Missouri's no longer being considered a "swing state," having gone for McCain in 2008 and having visibly shifted "red-ward" in the intervening four years.

As one of the first senators to embrace Barack Obama's campaign for the presidency, Sen. McCaskill remains among the president's ardent supporters. Accordingly, even if Obama wins re-election, there will be no coattail effect for McCaskill as the president's popularity in Missouri has certainly not increased.

Along with her ties to the president and the perception of her as liberal in a "red" state, McCaskill is burdened by at least two additional albatrosses. The most significant is her support for the Affordable Care Act, which was soundly rejected by Missouri voters in a 2010 vote of nearly 3 to 1 against the individual mandate.

To a lesser extent, her pro-choice stance cannot be considered a plus inasmuch as Missouri mirrors the most recent Gallup Poll, which shows pro-choice at a record low of 41 percent. Fifty-one percent of Americans polled identified themselves as pro-life.

On the plus side, Sen. McCaskill is outgoing and personable and has tacked to the center to promote a more moderate image than the liberal label painted by Republicans. A member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, she has made veterans' care and issues her highest priorities.

As chair of the Senate Committee on Contracting Oversight, her stated priorities include rooting out waste, fraud and abuse. Her other committee assignments include Homeland Security, Commerce, Transportation and Aging.

Her opponent, current U.S. representative from Missouri's 2nd Congressional District since 2001, Todd Akin, is a staunchly conservative Republican with degrees in management engineering and theology. Akin was a member of the Missouri National Guard from 1972 to 1980.

Congressman Akin's committee assignments include Armed Services, Budget and Space and Technology. With a rating ranging from 96 percent to 100 percent from the American Conservative Union, he supports the 2nd Amendment, pro-life and fiscal responsibility as seen in his rejection of increased taxation and spending initiatives.

From a polling standpoint, Sen. McCaskill is buoyed by the fact that, among the three Republican challengers, Akin was not only the most conservative but also enjoyed only a five point advantage over her as opposed to seven and 11 points by the other two.

This senatorial contest should be one that most accurately reflects the mood of flyover-country voters. It is the classic campaign between a moderate to liberal supporter of the president's tax policies and spending on social programs and a fiscal ultra-conservative with ties to the Tea Party movement.

It portends a defining and exciting contest.

J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via email at Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.

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Ellis Smith August 15, 2012 | 5:32 p.m.

Good article. One question: What is "management engineering"? There is a department - indeed, an entire building - devoted to Engineering Management at MS&T*, but management engineering is a bit of a conundrum. :)

*- It's the only department having more graduate than undergraduate students, because the degree is usually sought by engineers and geologists who already have their BS degrees. For example, I know two Ceramic Engineers with an MS in Engineering Management, and a geologist with an MS in Engineering Management and a PhD in geophysics.

(Report Comment)
Christopher Foote August 15, 2012 | 11:27 p.m.

I would like to point out that legislators that vote for bills that increase the national deficit substantially are decidedly not "fiscally responsible" to use Mr. Miller's parlance. Mr. Akin voted for both the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 as well as the Jobs and Economic Growth bill of 2003. Collectively these bills (known as the Bush era tax cuts) have added in excess of $3 trillion to our national debt. In addition, Mr. Akin supported the 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill. This bill was an enormous increase in entitlement spending and is expected to cost 3/4 of a trillion dollars by 2018. The bill was financed entirely by borrowing, there was no effort to either cut other spending or raise revenues to pay for it. That one of the Republican party's most conservative members (read "fiscally responsible") was/is such a profligate spender speaks volume to their definition of what it means to be a deficit hawk. It does not mean to be concerned about the deficit as one would think, rather it means that deficits don't matter as long as the money is spent on the proper constituents. Contrast the Medicare Part D expansion, with the ACA, which was written to be revenue neutral. Mr. Miller would have you believe that the legislator that spent 3/4 of a trillion dollars on prescription drugs for seniors and put it on the treasury's credit card is fiscally responsible, but the Senator who voted for the ACA (which according to the CBO will not add to the deficit) is not fiscally responsible. That's a curious logic, and it is unfortunate that it is advanced by the media, whose purpose is ostensibly to inform the reader. I come away from this article thinking its purpose is at odds with that ideal.

(Report Comment)
frank christian August 16, 2012 | 11:08 a.m.

We elected a new President, as financial disaster engulfed our country. The recently elected MO Senator, McCaskill (after receiving an Obama $10,000. donation, jumped upon his band wagon and promoted and defended his every action after his inauguration. These actions included the opposites of every successful recession curing effort used in past experience and seeing the disastrous results, we may determine them to have been Wrong. Most now consider the present state of our economy not achieved because of ignorance but because of intent! Our new 5T$ debt was not wasted. Waste goes into the trash or toilet. every dollar of this borrowed or printed money is in some persons pocket or account and none has helped unemployment in any way (except to keep union school teachers on the job).

For one to bemoan the votes of her opponent in this election, in favor of Education and Prescription Drugs, written by Democrats (whom should have been the ones to include "how to pay for it" language) and anxiously awaited for years, by Democrats, while all were begging Republicans to reach out to Democrats, then to claim that he may never be counted upon for fiscal responsibility, may be deemed the "height of hypocrisy". But then, with nothing else to be used...

(Report Comment)
Christopher Foote August 16, 2012 | 11:45 a.m.

Thanks for the chuckle Frank. I would respond specifically but I am having a hard time interpreting your Word Salad.
To reiterate my point, if you were to tally up all of the votes by Mr. Akin and Mrs. McCaskill that impacted the Federal budget (revenues and spending) you would find that Mr. Akin has voted for trillions of dollars more debt than McCaskill.

(Report Comment)
frank christian August 16, 2012 | 1:08 p.m.

CF - I think you understood my salad well, but did not enjoy the taste.

I'm ignoring your calculations because you always count tax cuts as a huge drain on Your Treasury while "across the board" cuts never have been.

To allow return of any Democrat to the Senate my leave us with H. Reid in charge. Give us some kudos for him!

(Report Comment)
Bob Brandon August 20, 2012 | 4:18 p.m.

An intriguing contest indeed, and it has gotten all the more intriguing. It remains, for all the weeping and gnashing, as the Colonel put it "the classic campaign between a moderate to liberal supporter of the president's tax policies and spending on social programs and a fiscal ultra-conservative with ties to the Tea Party movement."

Let the debate continue!

(Report Comment)
Jim Novack August 20, 2012 | 7:30 p.m.


I am late with my email. I haven't read this email until I heard about the Akin gaffe. Right now because of Akin's gaffe, McCaskill has a real chance to prevail. I think that Akin will now drop out.


(Report Comment)

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