In a primary race where the three main contestants were trying to “out-conservative” each other, Representative Todd Akin prevailed over businessman John Brunner and former state treasurer Sarah Steelman.
Brunner, who had been CEO of Vi-Jon personal care products, had been holding a lead in the polls and Sarah Palin endorsed Steelman, but it may have been the general election opponent, Senator Claire McCaskill, who carried Akin across the finish line.
Seeing Akin as the easiest to come back against, McCaskill, who trailed all three potential Republican challengers, cut an ad in the closing weeks calling Akin “Missouri’s true conservative” and “too conservative,” a move meant to both deride Akin’s philosophy and drive Missouri’s more conservative primary voters into his arms.
Akin voted against No Child Left Behind and TARP. He has a convoluted record on the Medicare expansion, voting for it the first time through the House and against the version that was eventually signed into law. So Akin actually has a domestic fiscal record that is more responsible than Paul Ryan, who voted for all of the Bush administration’s domestic demands.
Akin did, however, support all the military spending of the Bush administration: voting for Iraq, no exit date, and regularly voting for sanctions on Iran. He was against President Obama’s actions in Libya, as quite a few hawkish Republicans were, but Akin did release a statement saying Libya was not “in the best interests of our nation” and that “we are not the world’s police force.”
Akin seems better than most Republicans in Washington in that he had the bravery to vote against his party on major domestic issues. While he doesn’t have the baggage of supporting the worst excesses of the Bush administration’s domestic policies, he does have the baggage of supporting the worst excesses of its foreign policy. His opposition to Obama’s actions in Libya may be an encouraging sign if he can only continue it under a Republican president.
McCaskill, who had a reputation as a moderate in Missouri before entering the senate, has supported the most controversial policies of her tenure: TARP, stimulus, ObamaCare, and cap-and-trade. She has tried to portray herself as a fiscal conservative by opposing earmarks, a practice Akin has indulged. As her pre-primary ad suggested, she is going to call Akin a conservative as if it’s a cuss word. If she tries to exploit Akin’s earmark use it will be interesting to see if it doesn’t backfire. On the one hand she is going to call him an extremist who will cut this program or that, but on the other hand he brings home the bacon, so it may be hard to sell Akin as some sort of “extremist.”
Missouri will be one of the most-watched races this year because it is a state trending Republican since McCaskill was elected in 2006 and she is saddled with plenty of embarrassing votes. Akin has a mixed record himself, but he has the good fortune of being able to tie McCaskill and Obama together.