In Senate race, national spotlight on Missouri

Re-elected Sen. Claire McCaskill is expected to continue the policies of her first term.

Even outside the bounds of Missouri, the race for Senate became highly publicized as Rep. Todd Akin, R.-Mo., fought for incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill’s seat.

A race that was already regarded as critical for its potential to change the balance of the Senate became even more scrutinized on Aug. 19, when Akin made controversial comments on “legitimate rape” and women’s rights.

“On Aug. 19, Rep. Todd Akin essentially stepped in it and said something that went viral,” MU political science professor Marvin Overby said. “It raised a lot of questions among Democrats and Republicans about his suitability for higher office.”

McCaskill was originally considered one of the more vulnerable Democrats in the Senate, Overby said. However, Akin’s comments made the race much less competitive for McCaskill.

Homer Page, chairman for the central committee of the Boone County Democrats, said McCaskill would be someone effective to work with the president and would be able to turn back a “radical attack on the American middle class.”

“Simply talking tough and doing nothing hurts everyone and solves no problems,” Page said.

Page discussed McCaskill’s platform, specifically her policies relating to college students. He said Missouri needs to look at more ways to make higher education affordable.

“We can’t talk about jobs and competing in a 21st-century economy and not educate our young people,” Page said. “That’s just absurd. I think a McCaskill election would help in that direction.”

McCaskill is a strong believer in equal work, equal pay, Page said. He also said she supports women’s rights to health care.

“She will be a strong support for families and children, which are terrifically important to women,” Page said.

McCaskill’s support for women also transfers to higher education, where she supports the federal student loan program, Page said.

“The support for students will be very helpful for young women who are trying to get the kind of education they need to be independent and fully actualizing people,” he said.

With President Barack Obama returning to the White House for a second term, McCaskill will continue to back the programs of her last term, including those for veterans’ benefits.

Akin faced conflict both within and outside of his party. After his controversial comments, many Republicans, including vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., asked Akin to drop out of the race.

Overby also said there are rifts in the Republican Party between a secular, pragmatic wing of the party and a more radical Tea Party.

“The whole affair with Akin shined a bright light on that,” Overby said. “It raised questions on the future of the Republican Party.”

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