She's not a "crazy" Democrat, you see. She's a cool Democrat. So cool, in fact, that she voted for Obamacare, for the Iran nuclear deal, against the succeeding tax reform bill, and against both Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh -- having backed Harry Reid's nuclear option in 2013. She was an early Obama endorser in 2008, and the earliest Hillary endorser in 2016. None of that makes her 'crazy,' considering the leftward lurch of the Democratic Party, but does it render her voting record virtually indistinguishable from the leadership of her party. That's because she's a liberal Democrat, especially by Missouri standards. She's therefore forced to wrap up her re-election bid by begging her red state constituents to draw an empty distinction between herself and her fellow blue state partisans, with whom she almost always sides on big issues:
McCaskill campaign's closing pitch: She's 'not one of those crazy Democrats' https://t.co/9JEQx8tBEW— Rebecca Berg (@rebeccagberg) October 24, 2018
McCaskill's campaign appears to be doubling down on that message in the campaign's final days. In a new television ad released Tuesday by McCaskill's campaign, featuring veterans who support McCaskill, one man says of the incumbent senator, "you don't have to like her," before pushing back on Republican lines of attack and praising her work in the Senate. The radio ad takes that message a step further, however, attempting to differentiate McCaskill from unnamed "crazy Democrats." The ad features two middle-aged men discussing the Senate race between McCaskill and state Attorney General Josh Hawley, a Republican...The men [discuss] McCaskill, with one conceding, "I don't always agree with Claire McCaskill. But she works hard, fighting against those tariffs, doing all those town halls," the man adds. "Claire's not afraid to stand up against her own party." "Yep," the second man chimes in, "and Claire's not one of those crazy Democrats. She works right in the middle and finds compromise."
Oh yes, this definitely sounds like an authentic conversation between two Missouri voters. The fact is that McCaskill isn't "right in the middle." She's a liberal partisan with a liberal, partisan record. But every six years, she needs to convince voters that she's a down-the-middle moderate. Now more than ever, it doesn't pass the smell test. Incidentally, which Democrats -- specifically -- does McCaskill believe to be "crazy"? Let's hear some names and reasons. I doubt we'll get them because she's also nervous about further alienating elements of her own base, without whom she's toast. Unfortunately for her, in an age and party obsessed with identity politics, some Democrats are hearing a racial dog whistle in this message:
State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, a Democrat whose district includes Ferguson, told CNN she believes the ad could refer to African-American voters in the state's cities, among other subsets of the Democratic base. McCaskill "is calling her base in the urban areas crazy Democrats," Chappelle-Nadal said, "and she's relying on those so-called crazy Democrats to make sure she wins." McCaskill last year called on Chappelle-Nadal to resign after she expressed hope that Trump would be assassinated. Chappelle-Nadal later removed the post and apologized but refused to step down. Chappelle-Nadal decided previously that she plans to write in a candidate rather than vote for McCaskill, who Chappelle-Nadal says has been "very disappointing."
I very much doubt the McCaskill campaign intended to direct that phrase at "urban" Democrats in particular, but sometimes the race card is an irresistible play. For more than a week, my sources (and other journalists' sources) have been talking about the Missouri Senate race as if it's no longer tied, as public polling suggests. I've been told that Hawley has opened up a modest but significant lead over McCaskill, but that it hasn't shown up in the data. But here's a new Hawley internal that puts him up by seven points, in line with the private buzz:
On one hand, it's always fair to be skeptical of campaign data that differs substantially from media polling. On the other, as I mentioned above, this is what reporters and analysts have been hearing for days now -- with the New York Times reporting that GOP consultants see Missouri as a "virtually certain," and Democrats privately saying that they're not quite prepared to 'write off' the race. In other words, it sounds like it may not be just plugged-in Republicans who believe the trend spotted in Hawley's poll. Elsewhere, Democrats believe they have life in Tennessee, and Montana continues to lean their way. But as we covered yesterday, North Dakota looks all but over, with Indiana trending away from Joe Donnelly. Arizona is a pure toss-up, it seems, but Kyrsten Sinema's own words keep chipping away at her makeover as a self-stylized 'moderate:'
Also, while the top line result from the latest Nevada survey is very encouraging for GOP incumbent Dean Heller (leading by six points), the internals look suspect. Even if you want to believe the results, it's hard to view them as above-board. All indicators point to a close, competitive race. I'll leave you with the latest data from New Jersey, which may help explain why Chuck Schumer's SuperPAC felt obligated to parachute in with $3 million last week:
The sheer number of Democrats in that state will likely overwhelm Hugin's enthusiasm advantage, but the last thing Democrats need is for an incumbent in a solidly blue state limping toward a close finish.