COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill donned a waitressing apron and dished out hamburgers and pizza Tuesday to illustrate her support for federal student aid as her Republican challenger Todd Akin picked up some important advertising help from a political group affiliated with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
Paul's political action committee said it plans to begin running an ad Wednesday in Missouri targeting McCaskill for opposing his attempt to block foreign aid to Egypt, Libya and Pakistan. McCaskill said Akin's support for Paul's efforts show that Akin "is on the edge of the earth" when it comes to his political views.
McCaskill and Akin have long cast their pivotal campaign in Missouri as one of sharp contrasts, even before Akin propelled the race into the national spotlight with his August remarks about women's bodies having ways of avoiding pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape." The low six-figure ad buy from the Rand PAC marks an important financial step for Akin, who has apologized repeatedly for his remark. But it still makes up for only a fraction of the several million dollars of advertising that Akin lost from Republican organizations and GOP-leaning interest groups after his rape remark.
McCaskill reported raising a Missouri quarterly record of $5.8 million from July through September, as national attention focused on Akin's remark and his refusal to heed calls by top national Republicans to drop out of the race. She reported about $2.1 million remaining in her campaign account at the start of October.
Akin has not publically released his quarterly finance figures yet, though they were due to be sent Monday to the Senate. It sometimes takes several days before the financial reports, which are filed on paper, are received and released by the Senate.
Akin was campaigning Tuesday in southern Missouri with the family of Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar, an Arkansas couple whose household of 19 children is the subject of the TLC reality television show "19 Kids and Counting." McCaskill, meanwhile, relived her college days as a waitress, taking orders and serving food to about a dozen people at a restaurant in Columbia, where she once attended the University of Missouri. A campaign video crew followed her around, capturing footage for a potential advertisement. More than a dozen journalists watched and recorded the event. Many of the people McCaskill served were supporters who came to the restaurant for an early lunch because they knew she would be there.
"There was a point to this," McCaskill said. "I got through school doing this with the help of student loans."
McCaskill contrasted her support for federal student loans and the minimum wage with opposition by Akin, who doesn't believe the federal government should be setting wage rates and opposed a 2010 law that put the government — instead of banks — in the role of directly issuing student loans. Akin campaign adviser Rick Tyler said the suburban St. Louis congressman believes the federal government's involvement with student loans will eventually drive up the cost. McCaskill has said the government was able to lower costs to students by eliminating banks as a go-between.
The ad by Paul's political action committee shows images of people tearing down a U.S. flag in Egypt and attacking the U.S. embassy in Libya and notes that Pakistan imprisoned a man who helped U.S. troops track down Osama bin Laden. It chastises McCaskill for voting to allow the countries to receive foreign aid. Similar ads are running against Democrats in Florida, Ohio and West Virginia, said Doug Stafford, a spokesman for the Rand PAC.
Paul has no campaign events planned with Akin but decided to begin running ads in Missouri because "that race looks like it might be a close race, and he'd like to see this issue have an impact," Stafford said.
McCaskill, who is member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said everyone on the committee opposed Paul's amendment to cut off foreign aid and noted that just 10 senators supported it last month. She described Paul's failed amendment as "knee-jerk political gamesmanship" that could have escalated tensions in an already dangerous part of the world.
"This shows that Todd Akin is going to remain on the fringe if he were to become a United States senator," McCaskill said. "Most thoughtful Republicans voted against the Rand Paul amendment because they knew it was going to put our country in danger."
Akin has said he doesn't believe countries should receive U.S. aid until they take steps to prove they are good allies.