Both Democrat Claire McCaskill and Republican Josh Hawley face handicaps that could hamper them heading into November’s U.S. Senate election.

Senator Claire McCaskill, D, speaks at her Columbia campaign headquarters August 7th, 2018

They both face challenges that could be seen as shortcomings.  Hawley is an inexperienced politician, having been elected to his first public office as state Attorney General in 2016.  McCaskill, who calls herself the underdog, is a vulnerable Democrat in a heavily Republican state.

Further complicating the battle is a trade war that’s impacting Missouri’s farmers and manufacturers.  The price of soybeans has dropped 20% since President Trump imposed tariffs on China.  His administration announced $12 billion in aid to farmers last month to help offset their losses, but no funds have been disbursed yet and it’s not known if the money would be sufficient.

Some Missouri manufacturers have also expressed vocal displeasure with the 25% tariff on steel imports and 10% on aluminum.  Mid Continent Nail Corporation in Poplar Bluff has laid off 78 temporary employees and faces complete closure in September due to the trade war.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates the state could lose $880 million because of the tariffs.

McCaskill opposes the tariffs and is routinely visiting publicly with farmers and manufacturers who have been complaining about the tariffs.

Attorney General and Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Josh Hawley

Hawley has been vigorously supporting the tariffs and says the President should continue to press forward to force China into a better trade deal with the U.S.

Missouri’s Republican Senator Roy Blunt who sides with President Trump’s position 96% of the time, joined 87 other Senators including McCaskill last month in voting to condemn the tariffs.

Hawley has been endorsed by President Trump, who stumped for him at a Veterans of Foreign Wars event in Kansas City last month.  He could be in the difficult position of balancing the interests of Missouri farmers and manufacturers while not wavering on support for President Trump’s policies.

After being conspicuously missing at speech President Trump gave in Springfield in August of last year, Hawley wrote opinion piece published by Fox News supporting Trump’s tax-cut initiative that Congress eventually passed.  Hawley has since refused to criticize any move or comment made by Trump.

McCaskill’s biggest problem in the upcoming election is the fact that she’s a Democrat.  Trump carried the state by 19 points in the same 2016 election in which all five statewide offices in play were swept by Republicans.

McCaskill often points out that she breaks with the Democratic Party on a number of issues and stresses that she works across the aisle.  While speaking at a campaign gathering in Columbia Tuesday, she said compromise is an important part of the U.S. democracy.  “We’ve got to hold the middle, find things we can agree on that will make your lives better,” said McCaskill.

McCaskill is considered by a number of national political experts to be one of the most, if not the most vulnerable Democratic Senator running for reelection this year in a state carried by Trump.

Her prospects in 2012 were also thought to be dim.  That year, McCaskill spent $1.7 million on a “dog whistle” ad using reverse psychology, telling voters not to vote for the ultra-conservative Todd Aiken, in an effort to aid him in securing the Republican nomination.  The effort was successful, and Aiken imploded in the general election after indicating in a statement that women can’t get pregnant from being raped.

This year, McCaskill is faced with the obstacle of having to choose whether to support the President’s Supreme Court nominee, Bret Kavanaugh, with a Senate confirmation vote likely to take place just before November’s election.

She voted against Trump’s previous high bench choice, Neil Gorsuch, who was confirmed last year.  Hawley has been pressing McCaskill to announce whether she’ll back Kavanaugh.  The former Missouri State Auditor has said she’s meeting with Kavanaugh on August 21st and said she’ll decide after that point.

As far as finances go heading toward the election, Hawley has had a much tougher time raising money.

For the Senate race, his campaign had received roughly $5.3 million and had almost $3 million cash on hand at the end of the last reporting period in mid-July.  During the same time period, McCaskill raised almost $21 million, spent nearly $15 million and had about $6.65 million on hand.

Hawley has said more than 80% of McCaskill’s financing comes from out of state while McCaskill claims outside dark money sources are spending $10 for every $1 Hawley spends on his election.