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Luck, guts, scandals and showing up: Setting the stage for Missouri's US Senate race

The race to decide Missouri's next U.S. senator is hot, and the frontrunners from the two major parties have separate challenges of their own. (Image source: YouTube screencap)

In a race that's been called chaotic and contentious, there's been no shortage of opinions over candidates' chances in their bids to become (or remain) a U.S. senator for the state of Missouri in this fall's election.

The state has been moving to the right for years, but scandal has become fortune a second time for one of the most vulnerable Senate candidates in America.

Sitting Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill has recently been the subject of more than one piece labeling her as lucky.

She memorably manipulated GOP voters with an ad during her 2012 race that declared her Republican opponent, Todd Akin, as "too conservative for Missouri." Her messaging lured the political right to the polls for Akin and then she benefited from his implosion after the Republican nominee said in an interview that in cases of "legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down."

In her re-election bid, McCaskill's campaign is now seeking to capitalize on the fact that her biggest threat is in a tough spot.

Presumed Republican nominee for Missouri's U.S. Senate race this fall, Josh Hawley, was thrown some shade by GOP party establishment in a Politico hit piece this week.

Writer Alex Isenstadt painted Hawley as a "GOP golden boy" who party insiders accuse of "not showing up" on the campaign trail, as conservative radio hosts complain that he's less available than he was in the run for his current post.

But Hawley is the current attorney general for the state of Missouri. And he's rather busy these days; particularly in handling an investigation of the Republican governor, who has been fighting multiple charges since his election and faces possible impeachment.

Hawley was defended by the Kansas City Star's editorial board, who said that the Republicans criticizing the attorney general are just mad that he's doing his job. The Star pointed to the Politico piece, calling it "wildly unfair."

Hawley, Missouri's attorney general, told The Star, "I took an oath and have to do my job. We're prosecutors, and it may or may not be popular."

"This is an incredibly sad situation for our state, and I feel terrible for the families," he continued.

The focus of McCaskill's efforts has been a dedicated campaign to reach rural voters in Missouri, which she acknowledges as an uphill climb.

"These are communities that typically do not vote for me and I need to understand and listen," she said. "I'm working for everybody, even if they don't vote for me. I owe them my time and I owe them my respect."

Meanwhile, McCaskill has also faced criticism from her own party about not being present for her base. Democratic Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. of St. Louis said, "I'm going to vote for Claire, but Claire is going to have to bring her ass to St. Louis."

According to polls, the two top candidates are neck and neck. McCaskill's former campaign manager, Adrianne Marsh, said, "It's going to be a squeaker in my view. The dynamics, they're tough."



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