The number of Republicans running against Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, who is widely considered among the most vulnerable Democrats up for re-election in 2012, could soon double as she looks to move past recent ethics questions.
Two Republicans are already in, and two more are taking serious looks at the race, which the GOP sees as increasingly winnable. Former Ambassador to Luxembourg Ann Wagner met with the National Republican Senatorial Committee last week to discuss her interest, and Rep. Todd Akin is actively exploring a bid.
The entrance of the former state party chairwoman and the six-term Congressman would further crowd a field that already includes former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman and 2010 House candidate Ed Martin.
As the most highly recognizable name among the four and likely able to raise the most money, Akin, who received a perfect score for the second consecutive year in the American Conservative Union vote ratings, would likely jump to the front of the pack should he decide to run.
“If Todd Akin gets in the race, he owns the field,” a Missouri-based Republican strategist said. “He’s got 100 percent name ID in the most expensive media market. ... He’s the most conservative candidate. You can’t get to the right of him.”
Akin, who represents the 2nd district, Wagner and Martin are all from the St. Louis area.
Wagner told Roll Call that she is keeping her options open and that Akin’s decision will have an effect on what she decides to do. “Running for Senate is my preference,” she said, but added that she could be open to running for Akin’s seat.
“Claire McCaskill is beatable and out of step with Missourians,” said Wagner, who served as President George W. Bush’s ambassador to Luxembourg. “The NRSC and much of our Republican leadership feels the same way.”
McCaskill faced an uphill challenge even before her Senate office said she would repay $88,000 spent on charter flights through a company her family partly owns. She barely won her seat in 2006, ousting Republican Sen. Jim Talent, who took a pass at a rematch in 2012. Missouri Democrats have seen their ranks depleted in recent elections, and the 2010 Democratic Senate candidate was trounced by now-Sen. Roy Blunt. (Wagner was chairwoman of Blunt’s campaign.)
Democrats say not to underestimate McCaskill, but Republicans have been more positive about the race than ever since the charter issue surfaced.