As far as 2018 Senate races go, the battle in Missouri couldn’t be tighter with several recent polls showing a tied contest. Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill is trying to hold her seat against Republican challenger Josh Hawley, the state’s sitting Attorney General. Missouri typically leans Republican, but has sent moderate Democrats, like McCaskill, to Washington over the years. In 2018, the state could go either way which might give Republicans an opportunity for a pickup.

Just this past Friday, McCaskill and Hawley participated in a debate as reported by the Kansas City Star:

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and Attorney General Josh Hawley pulled no punches in their first face-to-face showdown of the 2018 campaign Friday, with each hammering the other on issues ranging from health care to judicial nominations to tax returns.

At a Friday candidate forum sponsored by the Missouri Press Association, Hawley, a Republican, sought to paint McCaskill as a “Washington liberal” who was out of step with Missouri voters. He vowed to work to enact President Donald Trump’s agenda if he unseats McCaskill in November.

“I have heard what the people of this state said in 2016,” said Hawley, noting Trump’s 19-percentage-point victory in Missouri two years ago.

McCaskill, a Democrat, said her record shows she’s a moderate who is willing to work across the aisle to get things done for Missouri. She said Hawley, by contrast, has demonstrated an unwillingness to stand up to the president or his own party.

“If you want someone who always agrees with his party,” McCaskill said, “then Josh Hawley is your candidate.”

She cited Hawley’s support for Trump’s trade war as an example, saying Hawley is siding with the president instead of Missouri farmers who are being financially hurt by tariffs implemented by the president.

“You have to have independence,” McCaskill said of Hawley. “You have to stand up for your state.”

Hawley said he supports Trump’s approach of using tariffs to force better trade deals, as well as his plan to provide direct financial assistance to farmers impacted by the trade war with China.

“If we’re going to be in a war,” he said, “I want to win it.”

McCaskill has positioned herself as a center-left moderate which has kept her prospects alive in the state. Hawley is trying to tear down that image by pointing out how closely McCaskill actually votes with a left-leaning Democratic agenda in Congress.


As you can see from the most recent snapshot, the race is sitting at dead even by most accounts:

Hawley McCaskill Polls 2018

For most incumbents, sitting tied with a challenger is a very bad position to be in since voters are very familiar with your record but they clearly are keeping their minds open to a different path.


We can’t talk about any of the midterm races without specifically talking about how the President factors in. The Hawley campaign has decided that President Trump would be a net-positive for them so they’re holding a rally this Friday, according to CBS News:

President Trump is heading to Missouri as he pushes for Republican Josh Hawley to unseat Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in a critical Senate race. Mr. Trump’s campaign on Friday announced the planned Sept. 21 rally in Springfield, Missouri.

Mr. Trump won Missouri by 18 percentage points in 2016.

McCaskill is vulnerable, and in a state like Missouri, Trump’s backing might be meaningful since he won the state so handily in 2016.


At their debate on Friday, voters were given insight on where Hawley and McCaskill stand on all the pressing issues. KRCU in Missouri provides us some details on where each candidate stands.

Health care

McCaskill attacked Hawley over his involvement in a lawsuit that would do away with the federal Affordable Care Act, including its requirement that insurance companies provide coverage for pre-existing conditions.

She said if Hawley supported such coverage, he could ask the court to separate the pre-existing conditions issue from other ACA provisions.

Hawley said he supports protections for pre-existing conditions and asserted the Senate could pass a bill doing so. McCaskill retorted that the Senate bill Hawley supports would allow insurance companies to avoid covering pre-existing conditions while insuring people for other medical issues.


Hawley accused her of failing to support the conservative nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court. McCaskill said that, overall, she has backed two-thirds of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees at all levels.

Hawley touted his support for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and blasted McCaskill for so far declining to take a stand. She said she is still studying Kavanaugh’s records and will announce her decision shortly.


McCaskill blasted Trump’s tariffs as “a two-by-four; we need a scalpel.” She said Missouri farmers, especially those growing soybeans, are facing devastating financial losses because their markets with China have been cut off.

Hawley said he supports Missouri farmers. He also backs Trump’s trade policy, saying it reflects “a trade war that China started years ago.”

Hawley predicted the situation will improve if China negotiates with the Trump administration on trade issues.


Hawley reaffirmed his support for Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S. southern border with Mexico and accused McCaskill of being part of an effort to “throw open our borders.”

McCaskill said a wall cannot be built on parts of the border and said other technological procedures can be used to provide border security.

Hawley said he backs Trump’s approach on immigration as part of a broader effort to provide national security. McCaskill said she supports efforts to provide protections for young adults known as “Dreamers’’ who were brought into the country illegally as children and now have spent most of their lives in the United States.


Hawley repeated his call for McCaskill to release her husband’s tax returns in order to look at the $131 million in federal subsidies that his business projects have received during her 12 years in Congress.

The senator’s husband, Joe Shepard, is a wealthy businessman who has invested in hundreds of projects, including nursing homes and low-income housing.

McCaskill pointed to various watchdog groups that have affirmed that most of the $131 million goes to the projects, not to Shepard. She called Hawley’s attack “a red herring.”

In turn, she attacked Hawley for declining to call for Trump to release his tax returns.

On Wednesday, Hawley released roughly 60 pages of his family’s 2017 tax return, while McCaskill released a two-page summary of her individual tax return. McCaskill and her husband have filed separate returns since they married in 2002.