Missouri’s Incumbent Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill was victorious in her primary for re-election Tuesday night.
Although she was not thought to be in jeopardy of losing the party nomination, she’s been continually referred to in the national press as one of the most, if not the most, vulnerable Democrats trying to hold onto a Senate seat in this year’s election.
Front-running Republican challenger Josh Hawley handily won the GOP nomination Tuesday as well. He’s been quick to pounce on McCaskill’s perceived weaknesses as a Democrat in a heavily Republican state.
Hawley challenged McCaskill to a debate several times in recent weeks and has criticized her for not responding. Tuesday night, he doubled down on his demand, proclaiming that the debates be held on the back of a flatbed truck.
“I’m going to drag that flatbed truck all over this state to courthouses everywhere,” said Hawley. “We’ll get out. We’ll get on the back of a truck and we’ll debate, just me, just her, no holds barred. That’s my challenge.”
McCaskill took time to issue her own challenge to Hawley, asking for all debates to be hosted by local Missouri media outlets and journalists, and for all of them to be aired on broadcast television, radio or streamed online to reach as many voters as possible statewide. She also sent out a press release listing her campaign manager’s contact information for arrangements to be made for a debate.
At a primary night stop at her Columbia campaign office late Tuesday afternoon, McCaskill noted Hawley had avoided debates with his primary opponents.
“We just weren’t going to talk about debating until the Republicans had nominated a candidate,” said McCaskill. “I thought that was just really inappropriate. He was being asked to debate his opponents and didn’t want to. So, I think he was trying to pivot and focus on trying to talk about a debate in the general (election). But I’ve always debated my opponents.”
Hawley held his election watching party in Springfield where he spoke in general terms but took sharp aim at McCaskill as out of step with Republican-heavy Missouri. “She takes her orders from the liberal elites in Hollywood and Washington,” said Hawley. “For too long, she has been representing them and not us. Well, I’ll tell you what, not anymore.”
The former University of Missouri Constitutional Law Professor also attacked McCaskill for not supporting President Trump’s stance on immigration and Supreme Court judges.
“In 2016 Missouri voted for conservative judges, but Claire McCaskill ignored us,” Hawley said. “In 2016 Missouri voted to build a wall and secure our border, but Claire McCaskill turned a deaf ear.”
For her part, McCaskill is making health care a major part of her platform.
As the Republican state Attorney General, Hawley joined 19 other GOP led states in a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act. The suit claims the law is now entirely invalid because Congress did away with the individual requirement to have health insurance when it passed the 2017 tax cut package.
The case argues that because the law is no longer valid, the protections it offers, such as those for preexisting conditions, are no longer enforceable. McCaskill sees defending health care as a major advantage for her in the Senate race against Hawley.
“On the one hand, you’ve got somebody who is looking after you on your side against the insurance companies,” said McCaskill. “And you’ve got somebody else who is willing to use the courts to wipe out every protection you have. If we can take that message to every Missourian, you know what’s going to happen? On election night, the first Tuesday of November at about 11:30 or so, they’re going to say, ‘You know what, Claire McCaskill’s done it again. She’s won Missouri.”
Hawley has said that he favors continuing consumer protections including preexisting conditions but still says the health care law needs to be replaced.
McCaskill also mentioned it would be a Democratic priority with a win in November to push for volume discount negotiations to bring down the cost of drugs in the Medicare program.
But her biggest talking point besides health care was her claim that she is being attacked by dark money. Dark money is a phrase used to describe contributions made through 501 (c) (4) non-profit groups that don’t identify their donors.
McCaskill didn’t call out organizations Tuesday, such as the Koch Network who she has named in the past, as spending large sums of money against her with attack ads. She did claim that dark money groups are vastly outspending Hawley on his own campaign.
“He has spent, I’m guessing maybe a dollar for every 10 dollars that the dark money groups have spent on his behalf,” McCaskill said. “Millions and millions of dollars have been spent in dark money.”
The two-term Senator also addressed criticism over her failure to endorse Brett Kavanaugh, President Trumps second Supreme Court nominee, after she voted against Neil Gorsuch, who was confirmed last year.
McCaskill mentioned she would be meeting with Kavanaugh on August 21st and stated that the interview would be centered on health care and campaign finance among other things. “I want to ask him about dark money in politics,” McCaskill said. “I want to ask him about fighting for the little guy instead of the big corporations. I want to ask him about protecting health care for people who have preexisting conditions.”
McCaskill and Hawley are now officially opponents in the general election. Hawley won the 11 candidate Republican nomination with 58.5% of the vote while McCaskill rang up 82% in the seven-person Democratic race.