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Missouri: GOP Senate Primary Is Tossup to the End

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
In the Missouri Senate GOP primary race, Rep. Todd Akin is seen as a lackluster campaigner, burdened by his comfort with earmarking, among other weaknesses.

“At the end of the day, where Brunner cuts through is: not a politician, a businessperson; not a politician, not part of the problem,” a Brunner aide explained.

Akin and Steelman have had their own moments of cutting through in recent weeks. Akin, who has a base among social conservatives, got a real boost when former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) narrated a strong TV spot for him that aired in July.

Steelman, for her part, rolled out a potent endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R), who campaigned in Missouri with the former state treasurer in recent days.

McCaskill’s aides believe all three candidates have significant flaws. The campaign has been chomping at the bit to have a clear frontrunner with whom to make a contrast.

Her campaign even released three ads, each knocking one of the potential GOP nominees. The one that was most intriguing was a rather tepid “attack” against Akin for being too conservative. That appeared to be an effort to boost Akin in the primary, in hopes he will squeak out a victory.

McCaskill has spent more than $850,000 on TV and radio ads in the past three weeks, according to a Republican tracking the buys.

Whomever the winner is tonight, Democrats look forward to bringing up his or her negatives rather quickly.

“Up until this point, because of the outside advertising and because the primary has given the lackluster candidates cover, it has been a referendum on McCaskill,” said a Democratic operative familiar with the race. “But starting Wednesday, that dynamic changes.”

Indeed, McCaskill has been buffetted this cycle by millions of dollars in outside attack ads that have emphasized her connection to President Barack Obama, who is almost certain to lose the Show-Me state. If she is to have a real shot of coming back to the Senate next year, McCaskill and her allies will have to knock her opponent down quickly — and hard.

Watch for that effort to begin as soon as the GOP nominee is decided tonight.


1st District

This is a race Democrats in Washington, D.C., did not want. In redistricting, the home of Rep. Russ Carnahan, who is white, was drawn into the same urban St. Louis district as the home of Rep. William Lacy Clay, who is black. Carnahan’s current district was essentially dismantled in the redraw, which left him with an unenviable choice. He could run in the 1st, a safe Democratic majority-minority seat, against a fellow Democratic Member; he could run in the newly-configured open 2nd district, which is GOP-leaning; or he could retire or run for another office.

He chose the first option, to the considerable chagrin of top Democrats such as Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Israel and others had tried to persuade him to run in 2nd, where he would have had a shot at picking up a GOP seat.

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