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Government, Politics & Issues

The Pint-Sized Pundit Enters the Akin-McCaskill Spin Room

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Gabe Fleisher, the 11-year-old blogger and pundit from University City, attended the McCaskill-Akin debate on Thursday. Here are his impressions.

Much to my chagrin, the 2012 election season is coming to a close. As I look back at the past 18 months I have had the honor of reporting on the elections, there is one big surprise that I can think of: the U.S. Senate right here in Missouri.

Months ago, right at the beginning of the Republican U.S. Senate primary, there were three candidates. Miracle #1: Nobody thought Rep. Todd Akin would win the primary, and then the DEMOCRATIC candidate, Sen. Claire McCaskill, runs ads calling Akin a conservative. That may not have contributed, but Todd Akin won. But months ago, nobody thought it would matter either. Because everyone said Claire McCaskill was the most vulnerable Democrat in the U.S. Senate. Most everybody had Claire McCaskill out to be a loser, and a big one at that.

And then, 12 days after the primary that made Akin the winner the congressman sat down for an interview with KTVI’s Charles Jaco. We all know what happened on that interview – Akin’s now-(in)famous comments on “legitimate rape”. Suddenly, the McCaskill-Akin race explodes into national attention. And Miracle #2 comes along: Claire McCaskill starts getting big leads in the polls, and that’s where the race has stayed.

However, this race is not positively going to go for McCaskill. But the race is no longer in Akin’s pocket either.

Both candidates had a chance to change the dynamic of the election last night, as they faced off in the second, and probably last, of their debates. The debate took place at Clayton High School in St. Louis and was sponsored by the Clayton Chamber of Commerce, KSDK NewsChannel 5, St. Louis Public Radio, and the St. Louis Business Journal. The moderator was Mike Bush from KSDK, and there was a panel that included Joan Berkman from the Clayton Chamber of Commerce, Meredith McMahon from the Clayton High School Globe, Art Holliday from KSDK, Ellen Sherberg from the St. Louis Business Journal, and Chris McDaniel from St. Louis Public Radio. I had the honor of attending the debate, as well. Here are my thoughts:

The main theme of the debate was the two candidates highlighting their differences, and McCaskill painting herself as a moderate who has voted against her caucus and President

Obama, and Akin painting McCaskill as President Obama’s best friend in the U.S. Senate, saying she was the first to endorse him and she had voted with him 98% of the time. McCaskill shot back by saying “I don’t even agree with my mother 98 percent of the time, much less the President of the United States.”

McCaskill and Akin fought on Medicare, where Akin said that McCaskill voted to take $716 billion from the program, and he has not. In turn, McCaskill said Akin had voted twice to take the same amount out of Medicare, by voting for the Ryan Budget. The difference, McCaskill said, was the Democrats used it for the Affordable Care Act, while the Republicans “gave Kim Kardashian a tax cut”.

Another issue that came up was the Supreme Court. While Akin stuck to the message of wanting Judges who wouldn’t rewrite the Constitution, and McCaskill wanted judges that had experience in a courtroom, but would “love to have someone on the Supreme Court who didn’t go to Harvard or Yale.”

Akin and McCaskill also fought on the situation in Israel and Iran. Rep. Akin went first, calling the situation a “ticklish one”. Akin cited the Republican stance: we shouldn’t apologize to countries that haven’t been our allies, and if Benjamin Netanyahu wants to visit our President, he should be able to.

In her closing statement, Sen. McCaskill talked about an issue that didn’t come up: equal pay for equal work by both genders. The senator said, “He [Akin] supports the boss being able to decide whether or not you get paid less just because you’re a woman.” Before ending, she added, “He is a boss who does that,” charging that Akin paid the women in his office 23% less than the men.

But that’s not all. As a member of the media, I went to the Spin Room after the debate, where the two candidates were going to show up and answer questions from reporters.

First came Sen. McCaskill. I asked her about what she would do to revise No Child Left Behind in a second term. Her response? It shouldn’t be decided in Washington, but on a state and local level. Next up was Rep. Todd Akin. But Rep. Todd Akin was not walking in the Spin Room. Instead, the Akin campaign sent Rick Tyler, a top advisor to the

Akin campaign and former longtime spokesman for Newt Gingrich. Let’s just say the media went wild in disbelief.

Apparently, the Congressman had left to watch the Cardinals game in what was a “family decision.” When asked about the decision, Tyler joked that the game was more important than the media. To Tyler, I asked why Rep. Akin had voted against the free and reduced school lunch program. Tyler answered by saying that school lunches should be controlled by the state government here in Missouri, and not the federal government in Washington. He said that lunches probably don’t taste so good, but he promised they wouldn’t taste worse if they were paid for by the state.

That’s my report from the U.S. Senate debate. Who will win the election in

November? The “moderate” or the now-famous conservative who made the race a definite Republican win into a race followed nationwide. Todd Akin versus Claire McCaskill is the miracle race of this 2012 election season.

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