Republican attorney general Josh Hawley has triumphed over Democratic senator Claire McCaskill in the Missouri Senate race. When Fox News called the race this evening, Hawley maintained a ten-point lead over the incumbent, ahead 53–43 percent.
McCaskill was first elected to the Senate in 2006, and 2012 she was aided in her reelection contest by the fact that she ran against a weak Republican opponent, Todd Akin. In fact, she later admitted to having intentionally propped up Akin during the GOP primary so that she’d be able to face him — rather than a more threatening challenger — in the general election.
Her ploy worked, bolstered in part by a major gaffe Akin made when talking about abortion in cases of rape. The Democrat also had an advantage in 2012, a presidential election year, with incumbent Democrat Barack Obama at the top of the ticket, which undoubtedly amplified Democratic turnout, pushing her over the edge to victory.
This year McCaskill wasn’t so lucky, drawing a challenge from the state’s accomplished Republican attorney general Hawley, a conservative who understands the dynamics of the state and who was able to attract both establishment GOP votes and the votes of Missourians who turned out in droves for Donald Trump in 2016.
Trump won Missouri by close to 19 points against Hillary Clinton two years ago, and voters in the state have remained largely favorable toward him and the GOP agenda since. That put McCaskill in a tight spot, because she’s spent much of the past six years voting in lockstep with the Democratic party’s more radical progressive action items, and she did little to adjust her course after Trump took office.
Perhaps most notably, she opposed the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court last summer, and last month she voted against Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination as well. Unlike several of her Democratic colleagues in the Senate who also voted against Kavanaugh, McCaskill said her decision to oppose his confirmation had nothing to do with the last-minute sexual-assault allegations against him.
According to one poll from September, Hawley’s support among Missouri voters increased by several points when respondents were asked how they’d vote if McCaskill refused to support Kavanaugh. According to exit polls, 51 percent of voters said McCaskill’s opposition to Kavanaugh’s confirmation was a top factor in their vote.
The Missouri Senate race was long considered a tossup, and a prime pickup possibility for the GOP. Hawley’s successful campaign against a progressive Democrat trying to run as a moderate in a Trump state has allowed the Republican party to flip its third Senate seat this evening.