The Republican challenger in the Missouri U.S. Senate race continues to try and gain the upper hand in the contest by pressing for debates.
Josh Hawley came out of the gate last Tuesday after securing the GOP nomination with prepared remarks challenging Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill to debates “anytime, anywhere.”
At the time, he said he would be driving around the state in a flatbed truck making speeches and invited McCaskill to join him along the way for public forums.
Since then, he’s used a pickup truck to pull a flatbed trailer on which he’s given numerous stump speeches. The trailer is sometimes adorned with bales of hay.
The McCaskill campaign was quick to use twitter to point out the difference between a flatbed truck and a trailer on twitter and advise Hawley she’d see him at a debate.
Note to Yale law grad: the thing you are standing on is a trailer. The picture below it is a flatbed truck. See you at our first debate! ???? pic.twitter.com/w9Ib72fbQ4
— Claire McCaskill (@clairecmc) August 8, 2018
A week after the August primary, Hawley is still making debates a centerpiece of his messaging. He held a press call Tuesday where he specifically invited reporters to push McCaskill to “come out of the shadows” and debate him.
Hawley argues that the Democrat is out of step with Missouri’s conservative values and is afraid to debate. “If I had voted against my state on judges, on the border wall, on taxes, on health care, on just about everything, I don’t think I’d be looking forward to facing tough questions either,” said Hawley.
McCaskill faced similar criticism in her 2012 reelection after backing the key priorities of President Obama, the health care law and the stimulus package, in a state Obama would lose twice. Her approval rating was stuck at 40% before her Republican opponent, Todd Aiken, imploded after claiming women wouldn’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape”.
A Morning Consult poll from last month pegged McCaskill’s approval rating at a dismal 39%, lower than any of nine vulnerable Democrats running for reelection in states carried by President Trump. Her disapproval figure was 44% although the number is close to even when the question of whether or not she deserves to be reelected is posed.
But polling of McCaskill and Hawley head-to-head consistently shows a tight race. A survey by Missouri Scout conducted in the days after last week’s primary showed them tied at 47%. Hawley’s message Tuesday indicated he may believe his best chance to win is to constantly put forth his conservative platform in public debates.
“Let’s do it as long as it takes and let’s do it over and over,” Hawley told reporters. “So, it’s not just one time. (Let’s do it) so the folks in Missouri can hear us on these issues and hear us out on the trail multiple times and can know exactly where we stand on every single issue. I mean, let the sunshine in.”
The Republican, who now serves as Missouri’s Attorney General, has also taken to Twitter to promote his flatbed trailer. A posting Friday after both he and McCaskill appeared before the Missouri Farm Bureau showed McCaskill’s RV driving by his parked trailer with a caption asking if the sitting Senator had a plane to catch.
McCaskill had used a private plane to shuttle between several stops in June after advertising the journey as an RV tour of the state.
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) August 10, 2018
During his press call Tuesday, Hawley noted that he’s accepted nine invitations from Missouri media outlets for debates while McCaskill has agreed to none. The Senator’s campaign press secretary, Eric Mee, responded to Missourinet, saying Hawley was pulling “a stunt”.
“Missourians will see right through it,” said Mee. “Claire welcomes debates. Claire has debated many times. And she has held over 50 town halls where any Missourian was welcome to ask her any question. She has already accepted a number of debates and looks forward to them.”
The two candidates are known to have agreed to one forum presented by the Missouri Press Association. Following last week’s primary election, McCaskill issued her own challenge to Hawley, asking for four town hall style debates.
McCaskill claims she’s chosen to focus much of her time between now and the election on challenging issues such as protecting health care for those with preexisting conditions and relief from the trade war tariffs.