Six-term GOP Rep. Todd Akin is expected to announce his candidacy today in the Missouri Senate race.
It should be a good day for Show-Me State Republicans.
Six-term Rep. Todd Akin (R) is expected to announce his Senate candidacy today, and vulnerable Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) is coming off an embarrassing series of missteps.
But privately, top Republicans in the state tell Roll Call that they are not bursting with excitement at the current crop of candidates and see a path to victory for McCaskill despite her weaknesses.
“It’s a less-than-stellar field,” a longtime Republican consultant based in Missouri told Roll Call.
Akin’s expected entry into the race cleared two candidates from the field — Republicans Ann Wagner and Ed Martin opted for House bids instead — but he will still face a primary.
Missouri Treasurer Sarah Steelman has been campaigning since December, and wealthy St. Louis businessman John Brunner is expected to officially enter the ring soon.
Even the Missouri Republican Party’s executive director said the contours of the race were still developing, pointedly telling Roll Call that the field “is not set.”
“There is still the possibility of others showing an interest in the U.S. Senate seat in Missouri,” said Lloyd Smith, executive director of the Missouri GOP.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee considers Missouri a top pickup opportunity as the GOP attempts to win the four seats necessary to retake control of the Senate. Roll Call Politics rates the race a Tossup.
A recent poll showed Akin garnering 29 percent among Republican primary voters, essentially tied with Steelman.
But the GOP consultant said Akin had not yet begun to build grass-roots and campaign infrastructure statewide. Steelman’s campaign has experienced staff turnover and her fundraising had been lackluster.
“If you’re a small-businessman in Columbia, Mo., you don’t have a candidate yet. And if the small-businessman ... who always votes Republican doesn’t have anyone he likes yet, that’s a problem,” the Republican consultant said. “Because if left alone, they’ll go with Claire.”
Though she declared her candidacy in December, Steelman’s original campaign director and communications director are no longer with the campaign. But Roll Call has learned that Florida-based consultant Rick Wilson was brought on by Steelman late last week and plans to move swiftly to bring momentum back to the campaign.
Akin is on much stronger financial footing than Steelman. He raised $459,000 in the first quarter and had almost a million dollars in cash on hand at the end of March. Having represented a suburban area outside St. Louis for more than a decade, he also comes to the race with relatively strong name recognition. Akin is a staunch conservative and is open about his strong Christian faith. GOP sources said Akin is also seen as relatively untested in a rough and personal campaign with a national spotlight.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.