Beyond November
6:08 am
Wed November 7, 2012

Race Of Strange Turns: McCaskill's Road To Victory

Maria Altman explores the path to victory for Claire McCaskill against Todd Akin.

The U.S. Senate race in Missouri was sewed up by Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill by 10 p.m. last night.

McCaskill got nearly 58 percent of Missouri ‘s vote compared to Republican Congressman Todd Akin’s 39 percent.

Early in the campaign, pundits predicted McCaskill would not be able to hold onto her seat.

But as St. Louis Public Radio’s Maria Altman reports, it was a race filled with strange turns.

Starting with an upward battle

Claire McCaskill was one of the GOP’s top targets in their attempt to take back the U.S. Senate.

For months polling showed an upward battle for the one-term senator, as Republicans cast her as a close Obama ally.

In her victory speech McCaskill recalled the political talk from 18 months ago.

“They all said it’s over, it’s done, it’s too red… it’s just too red," McCaskill said. "There’s no way that Claire McCaskill can survive. Well, you know what happened? You proved them wrong.”

The Chase Plaza’s Khorassan Ballroom in St. Louis was packed for McCaskill’s speech.

But as the senator pointed out, her victory was assured before St. Louis city, St. Louis County, or Kansas City’s results were in.

A mother remembered, and the "two words"

“Guess what mom, I think we finally won rural Missouri," McCaskill said. It was one of several references McCaskill made to her mother in her election night speech.

Betty Anne McCaskill passed away on Oct. 29.

The crowd at the victory party cheered loudly after a tribute was played for the 84 year old who had appeared in several campaign ads and stumped for her daughter over the years.

The applause was more polite when Senator McCaskill thanked her opponent, Congressman Todd Akin.

"He graciously called me. He graciously congratulated me. I recognize his years of public service and his patriotism," McCaskill said.

In a campaign that had largely focused on the stark contrast between McCaskill and Akin on issues like Obamacare, federal student aid and the deficit, two words completely altered the race.

Akin’s comments about what he called “legitimate rape” set off a firestorm.

National GOP leaders urged him to step down, but the six-term Congressman steadfastly refused.

In recent weeks Akin had rebounded in the polls with the help of conservative Christians.

In his concession speech, Akin made it clear he had no regrets.

“We believe that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness come from Almighty God, not an almighty government," Akin said. "We also believe that our creator made us one people. There is one class in this country… Americans.”

Akin’s supporters were left disappointed and even angry with Republican leaders.

An unlikely conclusion

George Hawkes said he thought Christian voters would help Akin win.

“You can’t find a more quality man," Hawkes said. "The one statement did him in. That and the Republican Party just disowned him completely. I think he could have recovered from it if they hadn’t disowned him.”

But at McCaskill’s party in St. Louis, many of her supporters said they were motivated to keep Congressman Akin out of the Senate.

Mike Snodderley volunteered for McCaskill’s campaign.

“Every time Todd Akin would go out and make a statement it would just make you cringe," Snodderley said. "I have friends from out of state who would ask ‘how is this even close?’ For me it was for making sure that I was proud of who was in the Senate.”

The win for McCaskill in Missouri that looked so unlikely months ago helped Democrats remain in control of the U.S. Senate.

Follow Maria Altman on Twitter: @radioaltman

  • See more stories on issues and elections from St. Louis Public Radio, the St. Louis Beacon and Nine Network of Public Media at BeyondNovember.org.