With two weeks to go until the November midterms, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill is making her final pitch to the state’s voters. And according to a new campaign ad running across the state this week, her message is: You don’t have to be afraid of voting for McCaskill, because she’s “not one of those crazy Democrats”—and by the way, doesn’t her opponent, state attorney general Josh Hawley, spend too much time at the gym?
The ad, the existence of which CNN first reported on Wednesday morning, is one of your typically hellish mock-conversation spots that are ubiquitous in radio, featuring two middle-aged guys discussing the impending election. From CNN:
"And hasn't Hawley been caught hanging at the gym and out buying wine during work hours?" one man asks, referring to photos that surfaced of Hawley earlier in the campaign.
The men then turn to McCaskill, with one conceding, "I don't always agree with Claire McCaskill."
"But she works hard, fighting against those tariffs, doing all those town halls," the man adds. "Claire's not afraid to stand up against her own party."
"Yep," the second man chimes in, "and Claire's not one of those crazy Democrats. She works right in the middle and finds compromise."
If you think that sounds like a bewildering closing argument for an incumbent senator—well, you’re right. At any rate, it isn’t the pitch you’d have expected to hear from McCaskill back in April, when she was consistently polling with a slight lead over Hawley while the AG struggled to navigate the fallout from the political implosion of Republican governor Eric Greitens over a tawdry sex scandal.
But Hawley has been gaining ground since Greitens resigned in May, while McCaskill has suffered damage to her image as a prickly, mavericky moderate on several fronts. First, there was the long, ugly fight over Brett Kavanaugh, whose confirmation McCaskill ultimately voted against. Then, last week, Project Veritas, the organization of right-wing “guerilla journalism” activist James O’Keefe released a series of embarrassing, secretly taped videos of McCaskill staffers candidly discussing how McCaskill couldn’t afford to state her true views on various issues publicly, lest she alienate the state’s undecided voters.
The result: spots like this, where McCaskill goes for broke to recapture those moderates, keeping her fingers crossed that her Democratic base will continue to find Hawley’s conservative beliefs repulsive enough to turn out for her anyway. It’s a bold strategy. We’ll see if it pays off.