Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill (MO) is having a rough week. According to the latest polls, she's slipped 7 points behind Republican challenger, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley — down from a double-digit lead just a few months ago — and her closing argument to voters, that she's not one of those "crazy Democrats," is backfiring in a big way.
It turns out, Democrats in Missouri believe they're the ones being called "crazy," and McCaskill isn't elaborating on a series of just-released campaign spots, trying to distance herself from her own party.
On Tuesday, McCaskill's campaign unveiled two ads — one television ad and one radio ad — positioning McCaskill as a "moderate" Democrat who seeks bipartisan compromises whenever possible. The television spot argues that McCaskill may be unlikable, but she's results-oriented; the other, a radio spot, suggests McCaskill is willing to break ranks with her own party and side with President Donald Trump, when a compromise would best benefit Missouri voters.
"I don't always agree with Claire McCaskill," one man says in the spot. "But she works hard, fighting against those tariffs, doing all those town halls. Claire's not afraid to stand up against her own party." She's not "one of those crazy Democrats," another "voter" in the ad contends.
That's not necessarily true, according to McCaskill's record of "compromise," and McCaskill's fellow Democrats in Missouri know it — and they're not afraid to reveal the truth about McCaskill, now that she's called them "crazy."
The Weekly Standard spoke to several prominent Democrats and they all had the same message for McCaskill: explain what you mean by "crazy" or don't count on us for support.
“It’s a message that’s coded, that’s reaching out to a certain kind of person and trying to play or cater to their worst fears or thoughts by saying ‘those crazy Democrats,’” State Representative Courtney Curtis told TWS. “And the immediate question is who are you talking about, and then what are you doing to that person in trying to get this voter in this way or manner . . . It almost dehumanizes or devalues the person’s worth or contribution to the community."
Curtis claimed McCaskill's ad is akin to a "dog whistle" to voters who might have normally cast ballots for Democrats but who switched parties to vote for President Trump in 2016, bolstered by the now-President's message of economic populism and concerns sparked by violence within the state, particularly riots in Ferguson, Missouri, that followed the death of Michael Brown.
Democratic Missouri state senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal was less coded.
“I want to know who these ‘crazy Democrats’ are,” Chappell-Nadal told TWS. “Is she talking about African Americans? Is she talking about the LGBT community? Is she talking about pro-choicers? Is she talking about the activists on the ground that have been responding to racial inequity? The question she needs to be asked and forced to answer is who are the crazy Democrats she’s talking about and relying on to vote for her in November. We deserve an answer.”
Chappell-Nadal has her own problems with McCaskill, notably that McCaskill called on her to resign her state senate seat after Chappell-Nadal expressed an interest in seeing Trump assassinated. But Chappall-Nadal also managed to describe McCaskill's election strategy succinctly:
“It’s like people hate her, but they hate her and are going to vote for her. But why do you have to vote for somebody who you hate? It just doesn’t make any sense,” Chappelle-Nadal said. “We shouldn’t have to force down vomit to vote for someone.”
McCaskill has less than two weeks to secure her re-election, a goal that looks more distant by the day. In past elections, McCaskill has lucked out, for lack of a better term, facing off against unsophisticated and often downright bizarre candidates like Todd Akin, whose thoughts on rape and pregnancy cost Republicans what should have been an easy win. Hawley has fewer negatives — the best McCaskill seems to have come up with is that he occasionally visited the gym during work hours — and McCaskill may just be the casualty that slows the "blue wave" to a trickle.