The front-running candidates in Missouri’s U.S. Senate race are walking on different tightropes in the final days approaching the election.
Incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill has taken shots at progressive members in her own party and embraced President Trump’s border policies in the last week. Meanwhile, Republican challenger Josh Hawley has avoided taking a stand on the President’s newly announced plan to end “birthright citizenship”.
In a rare interview with FOX News last Monday, McCaskill singled out two U.S. Senators when asked about the term “crazy Democrats” that was used in one of her recent ads.
Without calling them crazy, she’s said she disagrees with Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) on a “bunch of stuff” and claimed Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) attacked her when she called for less regulation on small banks. She also said she’s not a knee-jerk opponent of President Trump, like some of her colleagues.
In a striking move that’s a major departure for McCaskill, she gave a full-throated endorsement of Trump’s plan to block a caravan of refugees fleeing violence in Central American countries from entering the U.S. “Stop them at the border,” McCaskill proclaimed on FOX News.
During a press phone call Tuesday, her campaign manager David Kirby gave a more nuanced response. “She believes that these individuals if they’re not seeking asylum, should be turned away,” said Kirby.
While McCaskill told FOX News that she “100 percent” backs Trump to “use every tool he has at his disposal” in dealing with the caravan, neither she or Kirby have criticized any of the President’s controversial remarks about the migrants.
Trump has called the caravan an “invasion”, and while offering no evidence, has said “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in” among the migrants and claimed that “many Gang Members and some very bad people” are traveling in the caravan.
As the ranking Democratic member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee and a member of the Armed Services Committee, McCaskill has not offered her thoughts on President Trump’s decision to deploy 5,200 U.S. troops to the southern border this week in response to the migrant caravan.
The caravan itself is roughly 1,000 miles from the border and will take weeks to arrive there. Many observers think President Trump is proposing the military deployment to motivate anti-immigrant members of his base to show up at the polls and vote for Republicans
Kirby pointed out Tuesday that McCaskill believes the U.S. should have a strong border, and that she’s been endorsed by border security agents. McCaskill herself has mentioned that those agents want better technology rather than the wall Trump has long pushed for.
The two-term Senator’s uncharacteristic move to embrace of the President’s plan for the caravan and her ad campaign’s reference to crazy Democrats could reflect new felt distress for a politician who handily defeated her flawed Republican rival – Todd Aiken – six years ago.
The Real Clear Politics average of polls gives Hawley a slight two-point edge, although the latest survey from Missouri Scout pegs Hawley with a four-point lead.
In a press call Wednesday, Hawley declined to offer a view of President Trump’s intention to use an executive order to end “birthright citizenship”, the process by which babies born in the country automatically become citizens.
Hawley said he hadn’t seen any text of a controversial proposal and suggested the President’s goal instead was to end “chain migration” which he agreed with. “I think the issue of chain migration, which is what this is directed at, is that they are exactly right, to be concerned about, to be against it,” said Hawley. “I’m against it. We need to change that into law, and we need to consider every potential measure to get that done.”
“Chain migration”, which is officially known as “family reunification” under federal law, is the process by which green card holders or legal U.S. residents may sponsor a family member for immigration to the United States. The Slovenian parents of President Trump’s wife, Melania, became United States citizens under the same family-based immigration program.
Wednesday morning, Trump continued his campaign to do away with “birthright citizenship”, posting on twitter that it was not covered by the 14th Amendment as many legal scholars have said.
So-called Birthright Citizenship, which costs our Country billions of dollars and is very unfair to our citizens, will be ended one way or the other. It is not covered by the 14th Amendment because of the words “subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” Many legal scholars agree…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 31, 2018
Wednesday, at least two prominent fellow Republicans, retiring Speaker of the House Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan, said the 14th Amendment cannot be altered by executive order.
Hawley, himself a constitutional law professor, refused to break with President Trump, saying the issue would have to be settled through litigation. “In terms of what the 14th Amendment means precisely, my guess is we’re going to head toward the court having to actually say that and settle the controversy,” Hawley said.
The election takes place next Tuesday, November 6th.