With the November midterms fast approaching, Missouri’s Democratic senator Claire McCaskill is doing her best to stave off a late surge from her Republican challenger, state attorney general Josh Hawley. But with under ten days to go until Decision Day, the latest polling shows that Hawley may have opened up his biggest lead of the campaign.
The new poll, which was commissioned by nonpartisan news agency Missouri Scout and conducted between October 24 and 25 by GOP polling group Remington Research, shows Hawley leading McCaskill by four percentage points, 49 percent to 45 percent, with three percent undecided and three third-party candidates pulling in one percent each. The poll surveyed more than 1,300 likely voters across the state, and the margin of error was 2.6 points.
“The Claire McCaskill campaign right now reminds me of every well-funded losing campaign I’ve worked on,” Remington Research President Titus Bond tweeted on Thursday.
These numbers look great for Hawley, who has been inching upward on McCaskill for months following a brutal start to 2018.
In the early months of this year, Hawley struggled to distance himself from Missouri’s then-governor Eric Greitens, who was mired in controversies concerning alleged sexual misconduct and campaign finance violations. As the state’s chief prosecutor, Hawley found himself tied up in the whole mess, with Greitens allies smearing him as carrying water for the state’s liberals and McCaskill’s camp calling him a Greitens stooge. Between March and May, not a single nonpartisan poll showed Hawley in the lead. Missouri Scout’s own first two polls of the cycle, conducted in mid-April and early May, each showed McCaskill with a four-point advantage.
But circumstances have tilted back in Hawley’s favor since Greitens’ surprise resignation in May. In particular, the protracted drama surrounding Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court did much to heal the intra-party rifts that the Greitens affair had caused, allowing Hawley to reconsolidate his base of support.
Meanwhile, McCaskill’s vote to block Kavanaugh’s confirmation kicked off a months-long ordeal in which she struggled to cast herself as a moderate unafraid to take on her own party—a necessity in a state President Donald Trump carried by a margin of 19 points in 2016. Earlier this month, Project Veritas, the organization of right-wing activist James O’Keefe, embarrassed McCaskill with a series of secretly taped videos that showed her staffers candidly discussing how McCaskill was deliberately keeping certain aspects of her political beliefs hidden, lest she alienate undecided voters. McCaskill followed this up with advertising aimed at rural voters that insisted she wasn’t “one of those crazy Democrats”—which only had the effect of outraging African-American Democrats in St. Louis.
Some of the state’s Republican strategists—who never admitted much discouragement at Hawley’s poor polling early anyway—have practically begun to pop the champagne already. Veteran GOP consultant Gregg Keller tweeted Saturday that he expects Hawley to win by roughly 8 points on November 6.
I’ve long said the latter of these two is the only number in #MOSen that matters. If McCaskill remains stuck in the low/mid 40s head-to-head come Election Day (I believe she’s 42-44% rn), there’s almost no plausible turnout scenario in this state that delivers a win for her.— Gregg Keller (@RGreggKeller) October 27, 2018
“McCaskill’s major problem is that this state has really moved out from under her politically,” Keller told THE WEEKLY STANDARD. “It is a far more conservative state than it was when she first started running, and there simply aren’t enough liberals in Missouri anymore for her to win.”
Earlier this week, the Washington Examiner reported that Hawley’s internal campaign polling found them an estimated 7 points ahead of McCaskill. RealClearPolitics’ polling average finds Hawley a single point up over McCaskill. THE WEEKLY STANDARD’s own SwingSeat election model predicts a 55 percent chance of a Hawley victory.