The Republican candidate in Missouri’s U.S. Senate contest is trying to gain the upper hand in a tie race by targeting his opponents perceived vulnerabilities.

Josh Hawley is banking on the notion that voters will punish Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill for failing to support the agenda of President Trump, who won the state by 19 points in the 2016 election.

Wednesday morning on FOX and Friends, he claimed McCaskill is submissive to Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.  “Here’s what Claire McCaskill tends to do, whatever Chuck Schumer gives her permission to do,” said Hawley.  “She had to get permission from Schumer to even sit down with Kavanaugh.  A Missouri Senator should not be asking party bosses for permission.”

McCaskill met with Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee yesterday.  She voted against Trump’s high bench choice, Neil Gorsuch, who was confirmed in 2017.

University of Missouri Political Scientist Peverel Squire isn’t convinced, as are some national political experts, that McCaskill’s fate in her reelection bid rests on her vote on Kavanaugh.  “I think by the time the election rolls around, regardless of what happens with the nomination, there’ll be plenty of Democrats and Republicans motivated to show up,” said Squire.

But based on his tone on FOX and Friends, Hawley believes he’ll gain traction in what so far has been a razor-tight race by pressuring McCaskill to break from her party and take a stand on Kavanaugh.  “Claire McCaskill ought to quit hiding, come right out and say she’s going to support him, and then stand up to her party and challenge them to support him also,” Hawley said.  “That would be leadership.”

McCaskill is one of only three out of ten Democrats seeking re-election in a red state that has met with Kavanaugh.  She may not be susceptible to being goaded into a war with Hawley over the Supreme Court nominee.

Last month, McCaskill told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that she thinks voters will accept whatever choice she makes concerning the Supreme Court nominee as long as she’s honest with them.

“Anyone who thinks you can make some purely political decision on this is not being realistic about a state like Missouri,” McCaskill said. “It is not like I make a whole bunch of people happy no matter how I vote. The bottom line is you just do what is right and explain it, and Missourians, I think, will understand.”

Hawley found it easy to hammer home his stance on immigration on the FOX News Channel which has evolved into President Trump’s most unwavering supporter in the media.

When the FOX and Friends host mentioned that the suspect in the recent killing of a 20-year-old Iowa college student is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, Hawley proclaimed that the border had to be secured, and repeated his claim that McCaskill favors open borders.

McCaskill recently recoiled against his pitch on her stance at an appearance in Jefferson City, asserting that as a former prosecutor, she’s the only candidate in the race who has put criminals in prison.

Before wrapping up his short appearance Wednesday on FOX and Friends, Hawley was asked about a Republican House plan to include $5 billion in an upcoming budget bill for President Trump’s plan for a border wall.

Hawley spared no time in endorsing the wall and called out McCaskill for her resistance to the plan in heavily Republican Missouri.  “We’ve got to build the wall,” Hawley said.  “And the fact that Claire McCaskill won’t vote for funding for that wall, the fact she will not support actually enforcing our laws at the border, (that’s) another reason she’s got to go.”

McCaskill, who is the ranking minority member on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, contends that border security personnel don’t want a wall.  In March, she released a report along with other Democrats on the committee which found that additional personnel and technology are the top border security needs identified by agents.

Of late, McCaskill has been talking a lot about the importance of maintaining healthcare protections for people with pre-existing conditions while contending that Hawley intends to eliminate those protections.

As Missouri’s Attorney General, he joined 19 other Republican-controlled states in a lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act which enforces the preexisting conditions provision.  Hawley has stated he wants to keep preexisting conditions in a replacement to the healthcare law.

Hawley’s warm embrace of President Trump’s agenda and his appearance on the Trump friendly Fox News Channel should appeal to a significant number of Missourians.  In a July poll, the Republican-affiliated Remington Research Group pegged Trump’s approval among the state’s voters at 50%.

A Missouri Scout poll from earlier this month shows Hawley and McCaskill in a dead heat for the Senate seat at 47% each.