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New book on U.S. Senate points to McCaskill's 2006 role in winning Democratic control

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 18, 2010 - Regardless of what happens today in several closely watched congressional primaries and elections around the country, it's unlikely that any will prompt as much emotional reaction as Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill's win in 2006.

According to a new book by former Post-Dispatch reporter Terence Samuel, now-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid kissed the TV screen during McCaskill's victory screen because her success in defeating Republican incumbent Jim Talent helped put Senate Democrats in control. Noting Reid's reserved nature, Samuel writes that the Nevada Democrat's emotional smooch was akin to "dancing naked on a bar."

McCaskill gets quite a few mentions in Samuel's book, "The Upper House,'' a look at politics and relationships in the U.S. Senate during the past four years. All told, she's mentioned on 15 pages in the 255-page book, which particularly focuses on McCaskill and the nine other Democratic newcomers in the Senate's Class of 2006.

McCaskill is not among the 11 senators interviewed for the book, including Reid. Even so, Samuel highlights McCaskill's reputation for candor, particularly in her effort to duplicate then-Sen. Harry S Truman's World War II role probing defense contracts.

(Truman's actions contributed to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's decision to choose him as his vice presidential running mate in 1944 --and FDR's death in April 1945 propelled Truman into the White House.)

Among other things, Samuel touches on the decision by McCaskill and a couple of other women senators to endorse now-President Barack Obama over then-Sen. Hilllary Clinton in their 2008 battle for the Democratic presidential nomination. The book also discusses how McCaskill and several other middle-of-the-road Senate Democrats deliberated before voting right before Christmas to approve the health-care package sought by Obama.

(The book doesn't mention Missouri's senior member of the U.S. Senate, Republican Christopher "Kit" Bond -- who earlier this month was awarded the Harry S Truman Award for Public Service by Independence, Mo., the former president's hometown.)

Samuel, who previously worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer, served in the Post-Dispatch's Washington Bureau for three years in the late 1990s. He left in 2000 to become the chief congressional correspondent for U.S. News & World Report. He currently is senior correspondent for the American Prospect and an editor-at-large at the Root, a daily online magazine.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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