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Graves Weighs Challenge to McCaskill

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Rep. Sam Graves has been considering a 2012 campaign against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) since the November midterm elections, when his supporters began gauging his interest, the Missouri Republican said Wednesday.

Shortly after voting Wednesday evening to repeal the health care overhaul law, Graves spoke to Roll Call by phone about why he’s considering challenging the first-term Democrat. “Because I think it’s a huge opportunity, just a huge opportunity, and when you look at some of Sen. McCaskill’s votes when it comes to health care and stimulus and things like that, she’s completely wrong for the state,” he said.

McCaskill is one of the most vulnerable Senators up for re-election in 2012. Former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman (R-Mo.) kicked off her campaign in early December, and former Sen. Jim Talent (R), whom McCaskill narrowly defeated in 2006, is rumored to be considering a bid as well.

Graves said former Missouri GOP Chairwoman Ann Wagner may also be taking a look at the Senate race after losing her bid to become Republican National Committee chairwoman last week.
 
In a poll taken several weeks after the 2010 elections, Talent led the field of prospective Republican candidates. The poll from Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling found 53 percent of Republicans wanted him as their nominee, 17 percent would choose Steelman and 26 percent would choose Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder. Graves and Wagner were not included in the poll.
 
Graves, 47, is serving as chairman of the Small Business Committee in the 112th Congress. He was elected to the House in 2000 after serving in both chambers of the Missouri legislature, and he spent $1 million on his 2010 re-election campaign, easily winning in northwest Missouri with 70 percent of the vote. Because of reapportionment, Missouri will lose a seat in the House in the next Congress.
 
Asked whether a race against McCaskill might be similar to his 2008 House race against former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes, who has been compared to McCaskill, Graves said no. He won that election with 59 percent of the vote.
 
“Every race is different, and Sen. McCaskill’s going to be a fierce campaigner,” he said. “You take a look at every race, and you run every race a little bit differently.”
 
Roll Call Politics rates this race a Tossup.

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