Missouri Republicans Hope to Anoint McCaskill Replacement
No matter which Republican wins Tuesday's Missouri Senate primary, the fall face-off with Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill will be one of the GOP's best pickup opportunities, even as their field is filled with flawed challengers.
McCaskill is the most vulnerable incumbent senatorsup for reelection this year, if polls are to be believed. A late July Mason-Dixon poll showed McCaskill lagging behind any of her three potential opponents -- businessman John Brunner, former Treasurer Sarah Steelman, and Rep. Todd Akin. She is running for reelection in a Republican-trending state that President Obama won't contest in a presidential year. It's not demographically favorable for Democrats either, with nearly one-third of Missouri voters living in rural confines.
That being said, McCaskill's team will certainly be watching the primary returns closely -- the result will affect her general election prospects. And if she faces Akin, her preferred opponent, she can probably thank herself in part for the outcome.
The same Mason-Dixon poll that showed McCaskill trailing the Republicans showed Brunner leading the primary with 33 percent, followed by Steelman at 27 percent, and Akin at 17 percent. And an automated Public Policy Polling survey released Monday shows Brunner holding at 35 percent, Akin at 30 percent and Steelman at 25 percent -- a big surge for Akin in the past week. (It's Hotline policy not to report on robo-polls, but this one released right before the election matches what we've been hearing from the campaigns' internals.) So Brunner goes into Tuesday the frontrunner, but either Steelman or Akin could conceivably overtake him.
Steelman has gotten a big boost recently from Sarah Palin. Palin, coming off a successful string of endorsements capped by Texas Senate primary winner Ted Cruz, is going all-in for Steelman. The former governor of Alaska has touted Steelman in television ads and robocalls, and appeared at a Steelman event Friday night. Another boost for Steelman: she's been underfunded throughout the race, but a pro-Steelman super PAC is now shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars on an ad campaign supporting her and attacking Brunner.