August 7th marks the end of a primary storm that has waged between three Republican primary senate candidates: Todd Akin, John Brunner, and Sarah Steelman. The race has divided grassroots and the abundant mud-slinging from the campaigns has everyone wishing for the expeditious arrival of voting day.
Brunner has been classified as a Rick Perry type candidate who engages in negative campaigning which may or may not have been provoked. Endorsed by FreedomWorks, his upsides are that he’s one of those outsider businessmen whom Obama claims didn’t build his company (GermX); his downsides are that he’s an outsider businessman new to campaigning. Owning a business doesn’t guarantee congressional conservatism and no one knows exactly how he would represent constituents aside from proposed intentions. He oftentimes appears too stuffy or stern, a dangerous move opposite Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), while most vulnerable now, is a formidable campaigner.
In an interview on his campaign RV outside a fair in Washington, Mo., Brunner twice refused to embrace the label of tea party candidate, adhering to a more centrist tone on the eve of the primary.
Sarah Steelman has been the least favored by Missouri grassroots, although she has worked hard to bridge the divide with tea party outreach. Steelman’s past of filibustering tort reform as a state senator and affiliation with unions like SEIU has given some voters pause.
Some Missouri Republicans and business groups argue Ms. Steelmandoes not deserve conservative support because she sided with trial lawyer and organized labor interests against fellow Republicans when tort reform and changes to the state’s workmen’s compensation laws were being debated.
“In 2003, we had a real opportunity to pass comprehensive tort reform,” said Dan Mehan, president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, “and Sarah Steelman made it her personal mission to kill it.”
She was also the only Republican to vote against workmen’s compensation reform bill, a fact Mr. Akin has pointedly noted on the campaign trail.
Despite that, the 54-year-old Ms. Steelman, an evangelical Christian who calls herself a “constitutionalist conservative,” has won an impressive array of valuable conservative endorsements this year, including Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Express, a political action committee with close ties to the former Alaska governor. Conservative women’s advocacy and funding groups, including Maggie’s List, theSusan B. Anthony Candidate Fund, ShePAC and the Value in Electing Women (VIEW) PAC have also endorsed Ms. Steelman over her male rivals.
Sam Steelman, Ms. Steelman‘s son and deputy campaign manager, countered that his mother had voted for measures such as limiting medical malpractice, banning cities from suing gun makers and denying benefits to workers fired for showing up drunk or high on drugs.
Mr. Steelman also argued the proposed tort bill that his mother opposed was far from perfect.
“The 2003 bill that she voted against contained a provision that would protect drunk drivers from being liable in some instances,” he said.
Steelman was also slammed for what some characterize as anti-capitalist attacks on Brunner.
Endorsed by Missouri Right to Life, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, and one of the first members of the House Tea Party Caucus,Todd Akin is a more conservative member of congress but has bee categorized by many as a wallflower when it comes to aggressive policies to reduce bloated government. A strong social conservative, Akin’s past opposition to TARP rallied grassroots, but his support of the Patriot Act and NDAA has given opened the door for his challengers and left room for doubt. Having the experience means little unless you use it and only recently has Akin adopted a more aggressive tone both on the trail and in remarks on government. He actually has to campaign this primary; as a Representative from a solid red district, the race was the primary. There is concern that Akin may not be up for the bare kunckle fight that will be the general election for the senate general.