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Bipartisanship Is McCaskill’s Election Strategy

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Sens. Bob Corker and Claire McCaskill appeared together at a press conference in February to unveil their bipartisan bill to cap federal spending.

Sen. Claire McCaskill may be politically vulnerable and among the GOP’s top 2012 targets, but that hasn’t stopped Republicans from cooperating with the Missouri Democrat on legislation that could raise her standing back home.

At least two Democratic Senate aides who work for targeted and potentially vulnerable Members acknowledge that pushing bipartisan legislation is essential to their political strategy for winning re-election, saying that they actively seek opportunities to work with Republicans as a means to build credibility with their states’ significant population of conservative voters. Senate Republicans contend that such an effort is fruitless — at least in McCaskill’s case.

The GOP argues the first-term Senator is doomed in 2012 for, among other reasons, her support for President Barack Obama’s agenda, particularly his health care overhaul. With that in mind, Republicans said they see no reason not to collaborate with McCaskill on conservative priorities as they attempt to build the 60-vote coalition necessary for major Senate legislation. If this bipartisanship leads to Democratic infighting and pits Senate Democrats against Obama, all the better. In fact, Sen. Bob Corker said his Conference was supportive of his work with McCaskill on a spending reduction bill.

“I’ve had no pushback,” said the Tennessee Republican, who is also up for re-election. “Our caucus wants to see something happen that matters, that’s substantial, that’s in the trillions of dollars category, and I think everyone knows, in order to do that, you’ve got to have 60 votes, and we have 47.”

In addition to working with Corker, McCaskill recently penned a letter with freshman Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) asking the Obama administration to abandon a plan that would require companies that contract with the government to disclose political activity. Previously, she has worked with Republican Sens. Tom Coburn (Okla.) and Jim DeMint (S.C.), both conservative stalwarts, on earmark reform, and with Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) on a bill to halt Congressional pay raises.

McCaskill declined to comment on whether her cooperation with Republicans would boost her political prospects.

“I’m trying not to do the political play-by-play on this stuff,” McCaskill said. “I’ve tried to work across the aisle because it makes it more likely that you’re going to pass something and get something done. To me, the only way we solve problems around here is by compromising and working together. Unfortunately, solving problems and winning elections — around this place — is too often like oil and water.”

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