A new poll shows Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), one of ten Democratic senators up for re-election in a state won by President Trump in 2016, trails likely Republican challenger Josh Hawley by a 52 percent to 44 percent margin.
Axios, which commissioned the Survey Monkey Poll, reports that McCaskill is alongside Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) as one of the three “most vulnerable senators” in 2018.
“Each of their approval ratings is either under 50% or just above it, while Trump’s is well above that in all three states,” Axios notes.
McCaskill, 64, is seeking her third term in the Senate. She was considered vulnerable when she last stood for re-election in 2012, but she had the good fortune to face Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), a flawed candidate who stumbled badly after a number of memorable gaffes on the campaign trail, and she won re-election easily that year, 54 percent to 39 percent.
This election, however, looks to be different in significant ways, beginning with her opponent, Hawley, who has none of the flaws of Akin and is widely perceived as a young and vigorous proponent of the same policies that gave President Trump a 57 percent to 38 percent victory in the Show Me State in 2016.
McCaskill, in contrast, has more vulnerabilities this time around and seems to be afflicted with the same kind of gaffe problem that doomed her 2012 opponent, Todd Akin.
Appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program on Thursday, for instance, McCaskill criticized people in her own state who voted for President Trump, as the Free Beacon reported:
“You know what people in Missouri think? We’re just up here fighting,” McCaskill said. “The fight gets all the coverage, the chaos gets all the coverage, and as a result, the cynicism about our government and that some of us are really keeping our nose to the grindstone and doing a lot of hard work gets lost in the shuffle.”
“And then people do something which I think is maybe not a good idea: they do something like electing a reality TV star president because they’re so cynical about the swamp,” McCaskill added.
McCaskill has only voted with President Trump’s position on bills in the Senate 46 percent of the time.
She has also opposed his most important bills, voting against the White House immigration proposal, against banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, against confirming Alex Azar as Secretary of Health and Human Services, and against the very popular Tax Cuts and Jobs bill that President Trump signed into law in December.
Hawley, 38, was elected Attorney General of Missouri in 2016, and has been one of the stalwart group of Republican state attorneys general who have supported a number of lawsuits that have challenged overreaching federal regulations.
He faces two challengers in the August 7 GOP primary but has raised more money than both of them combined by a factor of two-to-one.
With Republicans holding on to a narrow 51 to 49 majority in the U.S. Senate, GOP victories in the Senate races in Missouri, West Virginia, and Montana would give Republicans a more comfortable 54 to 46 majority in the Congress that convenes in January 2019, provided the GOP holds on to the nine Republican Senate seats that will be contested in November.
A total of 24 Senate seats currently held by Democrats are up for grabs in 2018.
The Cook Political Report currently rates five of those races as “toss ups”: Missouri, West Virginia, North Dakota, Indiana, and Minnesota. Surprisingly, it rates Montana as “likely Democrat,” though that rating may change in light of the recent Axios/Survey Monkey Poll.
It rates three of the nine races in Republican held Senate seats as “toss ups”: Tennessee, Arizona, and Nevada.
Although the methodology of the Axios/Survey Monkey poll suggests the results should be taken with a grain of salt–the Missouri results were from a ten state online survey “conducted February 12- March 5, 2018 among a total sample of 17,289 registered voters living in Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia, Montana, North Dakota,” that did not include margin of error data–they are consistent, though slightly worse for McCaskill, with the two other most recent polls on the race.
A Remington Research Poll conducted between January 3 and January 4 gave Hawley a 49 percent to 45 percent lead over McCaskill. That poll of 1,122 likely voters had a 2.9 percent margin of error.
A Public Policy Polling survey conducted between January 8 and January 9 gave McCaskill a 45 percent to 44 percent lead over Hawley. That poll of 965 voters had a 3.2 percent margin of error.