Claire McCaskill's bid for the U.S. Senate made well-deserved headlines in 2006. Armed with high-profile endorsements, she challenged a well-known incumbent in one of the most politically purple states in the country.
McCaskill won, and has spent six years as a loyal foot soldier in the thinning and threatened ranks of the Democratic Party in the U.S. Senate. Now she is facing a tough re-election bid, but the senator remains confident.
"You've got a lot of people that anonymously want to hide behind these [PACs] and distort my record," McCaskill said in an interview with RTTNews. "But I'm confident that once we get on the air and we begin telling our story, we'll show the contrast. Missourians haven't seen the contrast yet. So when we can, we'll be fine."
The Democrats now hold a majority of only 53 seats but is seeing 23 of them up for re-election. According to recent polling averages compiled by RealClearPolitics, McCaskill is down 5 percent in her re-election bid - 47-42 percent, as measured in the middle of last month.
A former prosecutor who won election to the Missouri State House and later as state auditor, McCaskill ran an unsuccessful bid for the state's governorship in 2004. But she won the state's U.S. Senate seat in 2006, albeit by the narrowest of margins - winning just 49.6 percent to unseat Republican incumbent Jim Talent.
During the campaign, she was famously endorsed by actor Michael J. Fox. Fox was accused by conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh of "faking" his Parkinson's Disease during TV commercials for McCaskill - a move that helped bring national attention to the race.
Such controversies have put McCaskill in a bright spotlight in Congress, where she has voted with Democratic priorities 86 percent of the time, according to a Washington Post voter database.
McCaskill's main opponent is Sarah Steelman, a former state treasurer who now has a small lead in the polls. Steelman only has about $600,000 in her campaign bank account, however.
Meanwhile, the incumbent has $4.8 million for her campaign, according to official documents in the most recent filing period which ended Dec. 31, 2010. There are four Republican challengers: U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, businessmen Mark Brunner and Mark Memoly, and former state Sen. Sarah Steelman. So far, Steelman has compiled the highest polling ratings, followed by Akin and Brunner.
Like most candidates in this year's elections, McCaskill is focused on the economy and the budget, saying she wants to bring down the country's deficit while still providing valuable services to Americans who need them.
"The Republicans' idea of bringing our budget under control is cutting one-third of all the money we spend on Pell Grants, college education and veterans' benefits, while they give another six-figure tax break to millionaires," she told RTTNews. "That's not the way to move forward. I want to bring down the debt, but I want to do it in a way that's more fair and balanced than that."
by RTT Staff Writer
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