McCaskill Jumps Off...er...In
Today, Missouri State Auditor Claire McCaskill (D) announced that she will challenge incumbent Republican Sen. Jim Talent next year. McCaskill enters the race having lost last year's Gubernatorial race 51-48 to Matt Blunt. McCaskill shouldn't be underestimated as a candidate, as she successfully unseated incumbent Gov. Bob Holden in the primary. Even so, Talent is in a good position as McCaskill enters, having already raised over $3 million and about where an incumbent should be at this point.
Talent entered the Senate when he took out the ingracious Jean Carnahan, who was appointed to the seat after an election tainted by shady deals and illegal late poll closings. Even after then-Sen. Ashcroft conceded rather than fight tooth and nail as he should have, Carnahan voted against his confirmation as Attorney General. Talent defeated her two years later in a special election.
Sen. Jim Talent's greatest claim to fame is that he came up with the majority approval plan for judicial confirmation. While the Republican Caucus let us down on actually implementing that option, we can thank Sen. Talent for the confirmation of Judges Priscilla Owen, Bill Pryor, and Janice Rogers Brown. He is similarly conservative across the board, compiling a 94 ACU rating during his eight years in the House and two in the Senate. During his time in the House, Talent led the way on Welfare Reform, playing a leadership role in the passage of the greatest accomplishment of the Republican Congress under President Clinton. During a time in which the Republican Party has deviated from its one-time role of being the party of small government, Talent has continued to fight overtaxation and overregulation. The Republican Caucus and the conservative cause must return Jim Talent to the US Senate next November.
As for where the race stands, Missouri has been trending right in recent years. Though McCaskill fared relatively well in the Gubernatorial race, she still lost and both Kerry and Nancy Farmer faired poorly in federal races focused on federal issues. McCaskill will hope to divide Sen. Talent from Missouri voters on stem-cell research. Such a strategy would backfire as Sen. Talent would not only aquit himself perfectly, but he would also turn the issue of abortion on the Auditor and force her to respond to questions about why she has taken money from extremist pro-abortion groups. Last year, Democrat extremists were excited about Nancy Farmer, the challenger to Sen. Kit Bond. As the election neared, Bond put daylight between himself and Farmer and beat her by 13 points on Election Day. Look for Talent to do the same thing. While McCaskill should not be underestimated and could potentially make this race closer, for now Talent is the odds on favorite. For now, consider this "Likely Republican".