MO-Sen: Rep. Sam Graves (R) Won’t Run Against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D)

A big break for Claire McCaskill:

Rep. Sam Graves will not run against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) in 2012, the Missouri Republican announced Thursday, saying it was “an agonizing decision.”

“However, I also believe that I can have a greater impact on federal policy in the next six years as a chairman in the House,” the House Small Business chairman said in a statement. “I am the first chairman in the history of the sixth Congressional district and there is much I still want to accomplish in Washington.”

Translation: I’d rather be a big kahuna in the House than risk trading that for a back-bench seat in the Senate, where we might not even regain the majority. Of course, there’s still no shortage of GOPers lining up to take  on McCaskill – and indeed, the fundraising is starting strong, as Reid Wilson observes, with Ed Martin pulling in $229K in December alone, while Sarah Steelman collected $208K.

So even without Graves, McCaskill is likely to draw a strong opponent. That, combined with Missouri’s reddening, has to have the incumbent praying for a truly epic cat fud fight. All the more so, since McCaskill apparently has a political deathwish:

McCaskill, D-Mo., this morning joined with Republican senators in a far-reaching anti-deficit plan that could impose cuts on Social Security, Medicare and spending programs vital to Americans.

“This is a bold step; it has risks. If this bill is distorted and twisted, it could cost me my Senate seat,” McCaskill said on the Senate floor.

Make no mistake about it: McCaskill is signing up on a plan to cut Medicare and Social Security – and pretty much everything else. This is retarded and wrong on so, so many levels. It also shows how poor her political skills are, because a) it won’t take any “distorting or twisting” for her opponents to argue that she wants to cut these programs – that’s exactly what the CAP Act is designed to do; b) uh, of course the GOP will lie about McCaskill – they successfully cast themselves as the defenders of Medicare against evil, evil Democratic cuts last cycle, and this will be no different, even if it is Bob Corker’s bill; and c) of course the GOP will tar McCaskill as a big-spending libruhl regardless of what she does. She’s even making it easy for them:

She continued: “TARP? Let’s be honest. It was a genius decision in many ways and it stabilized our economy.”

TARP was genius. Jesus christ. I don’t think “I voted for it before I voted against it” was as bad. I don’t like where this is going one bit.

66 thoughts on “MO-Sen: Rep. Sam Graves (R) Won’t Run Against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D)”

  1. I kinda wish the Administration still had access to a trillion Dollar slush fund.

    As to Claire’s political acumen. . . I think she’s going for the Beltway “reasonable” brand of approval. But in the ads, she’s still signing up for a plan to slash Social Security.

    Democrats need to stop giving a f*¬Ęk what David Broder thinks. Nobody reads him.  

  2. doesn’t specifically call for Social Security or Medicare cuts. The link below (yes, it discusses policy, but that’s relevant here) seems to suggest that it could be a by product of the plan to limit overall spending under some circumstances.

    For a moment, let me play the devil’s advocate and say that this proposal won’t go anywhere, but that she will get the credit for tying herself to limit government spending. That list thing probably will probably help her a little, now and in the future.

    And TARP? That’ll probably be old news in 2012, and anybody who is still pissed about it probably won’t be voting for her no matter what happens.  

  3. So maybe she thought that she may as well defend it, precisely to avoid sounding like she was double-talking.  The other ’06ers who voted for it are Whitehouse, Webb, Casey, Klobuchar, Cardin, and Brown.  (Tester and Sanders voted against it).  I suppose Webb and Brown, along with McCaskill, face the toughest re-election: How are they talking about it?

  4. Personally I don’t think Grave’s decision matters one bit, I never believed he was likely to run, and not particularly likely to win the primary if he did (and thus why he’s taking a pass).

    I expect an similair announcement from Emerson shortly, which will be follow in short order by an campaign kickoff by Ann Wagner, she really is the 800lb gorilla in the primary, she’s as or mor conservative than Martin (without the Tea Party amateurism or the MATT BLUNT stigmata) and can wrap up the establishment support from Sarah Steelman too.

    As for McCaskill, I think her campaign strategy is clearly to run as Republican-Light across the state and assume that Obama being on the ticket will get the Urbann/AA vote out for her in KC & STL no matter what she does or says in the GOP leaning hinterlands.

  5. It worked for them because they opposed the whole bill in unison. Much harder to attack McCaskill over something most Republicans support that probably won’t happen anyway. And she is correct to double down on TARP. It was genius.

  6. I don’t like what I’m hearing from McCaskill.  I sometimes question whether she has the political savvy to survive in Washington.  However, I also think she does work hard in the US Senate and that trait probably counts a lot in Missouri.  McCaskill does have an edge about her that should resonate with the middle class within her state, but when she’s joining the GOP on cutting Social Security and Medicare, it makes me think she doesn’t understand Middle America.  These statements won’t help her, IMHO.  

  7. Someone who is say conservative on social issues but more liberal or populist on economic issues is a moderate.  That can be popular as it may reflect your constituency or show that you’ll skew off the ideological reservation and not be someone who is “unreasonable.”

    However that does not mean that taking the center course on a given issue despite also making you technically a moderate is the most popular course of action.  Take tax cuts.  If you oppose a tax cut that is one thing.  You can respect that is say being fiscally conservative.  A really large tax cut can of course be wildly popular.  However a small meager tax cut is not going to be even more popular than that even if fiscally more reasonable and in theory more to the “center” of the political center.

    Or to use health care.  If Congress had passed actual “socialized medicine” and gave everyone the right to government provided healthcare.  That would’ve been far more popular than what they actually passed.  Once someone had health care given to them for free they probably never would’ve wanted to give it up.  Might it have been fiscially irresponsible?  Perhaps.  But politically it would’ve become a new medicare.

    Sometimes an ideological “extreme” can be more popular than a “moderate” course.

    This does not mean we should cut taxes to zero while providing free breast augmentation for all.  But it does mean those centrists with their fingers in the wind need to realize that moderation is a sum of all the positions they hold.  And being tepid for the sakes of being tepid will bring you tepid results.

  8. Instead of reading his column, just pick any random issue, criticize Democrats, and talk about the need to “do something,”  to “get stuff done,” and to “come together in a bipartisan manner so that we get a reasonable centrist solution.”

    At least that has been my impression of him. I can’t remember the last time I read a column of his.  

  9. Weirdly, though, she’s absolutely right.  TARP saved the economy from a total meltdown and in the end is going to cost us little or nothing.  Indeed, there’s a fair chance that we’ll end up making money on it.

    Unfortunately, I think you’re dead on that statements like that are probably political suicide.  Voters seem more interested in sound bites (“bailouts for Wall Street but not for Main Street”) than in actual facts.

    That said, I suspect this seat is going to be very hard to defend.  One reason I think the Republicans will retake the Senate even though I expect 2012 to be a very good year for Democrats over all.

  10. I think that the readership/viewership of most centrist commentators/columists is limited to the beltway types, because in order to get a lot of viewership in the media today you need to be able to stir people up and create controversy, which is hard for “reasonable” people like broder to do. Joe Scarborough is probably the closest thing to a Glenn Beck of the self-annointed “reasonable” types, but even he doesn’t have anything like the viewership of a Maddow or a Hannity.

  11. Lot of pols like Claire McCaskill think that what “middle-of-the-road” voters in her home state want is exactly what “middle-of-the-road” Beltway pundits want.

  12. Is precisely what I’m trying to say does not and cannot happen in the world of politics – in the world of soundbites and 30-second attack ads and Twitter feeds. Technical explanations don’t matter. Explanations which require this level of nuance just don’t matter – they can’t penetrate. And anyhow, almost any time you are on the defensive, there’s little you can say to regain the high ground. If people start attacking you for wanting to cut Social Security and Medicare, and those attacks stick even a little bit, it’s very hard to get out from under that.

  13. I agree the CAP act is ridiculous.  It’s yet another example of Republicans’ ability to frame complex issues in simple sound bites that are totally impractical but score big political points for them since so many voters want simple solutions.

    As an actuary the whole Social Security debate is depressing.  The Republicans want to destroy the program – they can’t seem to understand that “winners and losers” and “minimum floor of protection” don’t go together.  On the other hand, so many Democrats want no changes at all.  With life expectancies continuing to grow, it makes simple actuarial sense to SLOWLY raise the normal retirement age over time.  The idea of lower retirement age exceptions for certain careers (like coal miners, e.g.) would appropriately recognize the impact of dangerous work.  

    But instead we get “privatize” which would hurt most participants or “hands off” which ignores legitimate demographic trends.

  14. But it might have hurt him in the primary had his opposition been more meaningful (and better-funded) that Chuck Purgason. I don’t think the fact that a toxic vote didn’t hurt a Republican in a red state in the reddest of years is dispositive of much.

  15. a Bowsher problem anyway.

    A “serious” program that couldn’t be implemented legally. How appropriate.  

  16. But the fact it didn’t affect him much is indicative that TARP had already gone through one half-life.  For pete’s sake, Blunt was the chief GOP whip for TARP!

  17. “Genius” might be too strong a word, but TARP is looking better and better over time, and it’s only going to get harder to use it as an attack point.

    Frankly, it wasn’t very effective last year.  Who can you say lost in November over TARP?  Yes a few Republicans might have lost primaries partly over TARP…but only a few, only “might,” and only partly, and only in primaries.

    Now, the Medicare/Social Security stuff is more problematic for Claire.  That’s just not smart.

  18. I put Broder in the same pool of idiocy as William Kristol.  They are unalike politically, but the value of their thinking is on the same leve.

  19. that should have destroyed Roy Blunt. If you had asked me three years ago, I would have laughed at the idea that he would win. But he won. . .

  20. That’s why I use the word “centrist” rather than “moderate”. “Moderate” actually describes a certain political position, “centrist” means putting yourself in the center of any political debate, wherever that “center” happens to be (at least that’s the way I see it). The high broderists are “centrist” not “moderate”.

  21. Turnout was horrendous for one thing.  But it also can mean that TARP is not going to be some boogeyman to turn enough swing voters.

  22. I am not so sure.

    I still have serious reservations about the political instincts of Obama’s people. But there’s no way I can make an objective assessment about that.  

  23. Is probably way to the economic left & social right of the beltway “reasonable people” like broder. I’d say that’s true in many other places as well.

  24. On what “middle of the road” voters wind up thinking.  I say.  (and unfortunately.)

    I think McCaskill is playing for a narrative to be set in free media.  If she gets Broder to think she’s a “very moderate Democrat,” then she winds up getting reporters and commentators in her state calling her a “moderate Democrat” over and over again in columns and even in straight news articles.  If she can get “moderate Democrat” to be her Homeric epithet in the home-state press, that is worth an awful lot, particularly measured against the paid media it would take to establish and maintain that narrative.  

    Even defending TARP is probably a deliberate attempt to earn bona fides  from beltway Brahmins whose approval will resurface in media narratives and other useful ways later.  

    I’m not saying that it’s a good move.  Being a Beltway Approved Democrat has done very little for Blanche Lincoln, Robin Carnahan, or Joe Lieberman.  Ken Salazar seemed to make it work.  Harold Ford might coulda pulled it off if he’d been a little more subtle.  

    But is does seem clear theat she just put all her chips on “moderate Democrat” as her winning strategy, rather than any kind of populist appeal.  We’ll see how well that works out for her…  

  25. do you think this will go anywhere? It’s a pretty terrible idea in theory, basically placing a straight jacket on the ability of the government to engage in fiscal policy. Will it come up for a vote in the Senate? Would Obama sign it if it passed both Houses?

  26. politics of deficit reduction are really complicated right now. Their is a consensus on both sides of the aisle that something has to be done, but no clue how to get there.  

  27. see this going anywhere. It’s not quite in the same league as the health care repeal vote, but it’s similar. And since it doesn’t explicitly call for Social Security cuts, I am not sure it can be spun that way. (The fact that several Republicans signed on, some of whom might be vulnerable if their states are focused on, makes me think it’s not the third rail it seems at first.)

    Take a look at the Daily Kos link below. The posters there are shitting themselves in anger. One predicted she is about to switch parties. The article above quoted her as saying she’s prepared to lose her seat to fight for fiscal responsibility. She’s also the lone Democrat to team up with Republicans. All of this stuff allows her to say she tried to get something done, but she doesn’t have to live with the consequences of anything, unless something comes from this. Considering that it doesn’t look like it’s going to pass, that probably isn’t an issue.

  28. It’s easy to cut and even erase the deficit as a matter of policy:  raise taxes, cut spending, or both.

    But politically, yes, all the options are suicide.  Basically it takes Democrats and Republicans jumping off the cliff together so that voters can’t pick a party to blame.

    That’s what happened with TARP, and as I discussed above it’s why TARP was largely ineffective as an attack narrative in November.  The support and opposition both were bipartisan, making it impossible to pin blanket blame on one party.

  29. Don’t mean to be a grammar policeman etc etc, but could we limit the use of the word “retarded”? Thanks

  30. invent attacks from out of thin air, why don’t they?

    Maybe this can be spun as a bill that is designed to cut Social Security, but if that is the case, then why did so many Republicans sign on?

    We could describe a lot of hypothetical situations, but I could see McCaskill using this vote to start positioning herself as someone “trying to get spending under control” and using this bill as an example as she starts talking to more voters around the state. She can say, however disingenuously (probably not that much), that she will do this while trying to protect Social Security. Because she’s a senator right now and the people running against her aren’t in office, she can define herself to voters before they try to define her.  

  31. This bill would cut entitlement programs. I mean, it’s a Republican bill. Republicans hate these programs (even if they are smart enough to know how to play them for political advantage) – and if nothing else, they want Wall Street’s paws on the SS trust fund cuz that’s a HUGE amount of commissions they can make. So of course this is an outrageously terrible bill that will do everything that Democrats hate… because it’s a Republican bill!

  32. It would be stupid politics to run away from her vote on something so untangible.  She voted for it, so call it brilliant.  Let someone else prove otherwise.

    (Personally I wouldn’t have voted for it and wouldn’t call it brilliant, but it is good to see a politician stand behind what they did for once.)

  33. My point is that while the likely effect of the proposal is Social Security cuts, among other things, it doesn’t explicitly call for them. It doesn’t, as far as I can tell, say anything about privatization.

    You claim it’s easy to say she’s for slashing Social Security benefits (I don’t think she is, but more on that below), but to explain that point, you have to describe how placing a limit on federal spending gets us there. That’s really hard to do in a commercial, I think, and it’s not made any easier by the fact that no specific cuts are designated. It’s easier to say she’s for protecting Social Security benefits, even if she is indirectly doing the opposite.

    In the end, I think she wins with by being associated with this bill. The left is attacking her, so she can claim that she’s not being held down by the liberal base of her party. She can claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility (not really, but that’s what others will be saying) and get everything good that is associated with it. She gets credit for bipartisanship, too, since she’s the only Democrat that is willing to join Republicans. (“Where’s Blunt?” she can ask.) And unless I am missing something because I am very weak when it comes to the legislative process, this bill has no chance of going anywhere, at all. As in, I doubt Harry Reid lets this get beyond the minimum of what he is forced to allow.

    It’s two years before the election, when for better or worse, spending cuts are popular–in theory at least. She’s associating herself with a bill–a very bad bill, of course–that calls for just that. She gets the claim, however unjustly, that she’s being fiscally responsible, and all she has to do is repeat that she’s for protecting Social Security while her opponents are busy finding a candidate.  

  34. I think the press is too quick to assume your average voters knows, understand or cares what the U3 rate is (let alone the U6). Much like GDP I think it makes for a nice press hit (regardless of what the answer is, either side, or both, gets there smacks in), but those numbers don’t actually affect voters behaviors.

    Looking to Missouri specifically, looking at what the U3/U6 rates are for the state, and among what key demographics, will determine the affect it has on turnout and voters attitudes.

    In most cases I think the U6 is far more important, a large pool of voters who are not only unemployed, but discouraged are voters who are going to vote for a major change, in leadership and policy. That is the key swing group of people who turned out to vote for the GOP in ’10, and an increease in the number of such angry voters is much worse for incumbents than the good press his on the dropping U3 rate provides a positive counter to it.

  35. I know when we say things like “off the reservation” or “retarded” it’s not designed to insult any groups of people, but it’s just not good to use these words…

  36. DavidNYC, your political acumen is second to no man (or woman, as far as I know), but I find myself agreeing with b.j. on this one. I think he’s right – she will get credit for being fiscally responsible and bipartisan. If she were running in say, Michigan, it would be certain disaster. But in a state like Missouri, which seems to be turning redder since 2008, it doesn’t seem like a bad strategy.

    Don’t think this means anything b.j. – I still think you’re wrong about Texas (and let’s not get into that debate on this thread, I’m sure there will be plenty of opportunities for us to fight each other on a Texas related thread).  

  37. Oh, come now, I kid.

    Anyway, for this political move to be effective, I think she has to do a few more things. One is to work on appeasing the base in her state. She has to loudly repeat for the next two years that she is for protecting and strengthening Social Security and Medicare. I don’t know if she’s been attacked for this, but if she has, it probably wasn’t recently. She basically needs to preempt the next stage of attacks by insisting what I described above, no matter what else she does. This obviously goes against what she is signing on to with the Cap Act, but when this bill fails (and I think it simply has to, given what the Republicans are up against), she can claim it was a jumping off point to start negotiations. Which brings to the other thing she needs to do: work on legitimate means for bringing the deficit under control in the future. Even if she has to attach herself to some unpopular and unlikely moves, she doesn’t have to be that specific. (But since some here fear she could be tarred with her TARP statements, backing a financial transaction tax is probably a great, and I mean great, way to counteract that. It’s very unlikely to be implemented in the next two years, but that’s in some ways better, because it keeps the issue alive.) Basically, she needs to keep clinging to the mantle of fiscal responsibility. Some will, of course, accuse her of running to the right, but that isn’t going to hurt her. I’m not sure if Missouri is really reddening any more than it it already is, but emphasizing one’s independence is never a bad thing.  

    She is, of course, a senator right now, and perhaps now isn’t the time to make the rounds of her state. But soon, it will be. And since she has the the title that her eventual opponent lacks, it gives her a little heft.  

  38. on most things, and have found the discussion between users markhanna and b.j. on TX to be educational and illuminating.

  39. I used to work in the Intergovernmental and Tribal Affairs office at HHS, they day I started they gave us a briefing on all the normal figures of speach that are completely taboo when dealing in tribal affairs, chief among them was “Going of the Reservation” for obvious reasons, also out of bounds was “Up the Totem Pole”, any reference to “Indians” (despite being across the street from the Museum of the American Indian, uhmmm, guys? DUH!!!) and usage of other every day words like Teepee, wigwam or Macaca…

  40. She knows her state pretty well, and this is why I have a lot of confidence she will gain another term  

  41. I would be astonished if McCaskill was doing this without political motivations. And even if she is, I bet she isn’t doing this with the intention of slashing Social Security and Medicare. My guess is that she’s possibly confused about what this sort of cap would do. But like I said, I bet she knows this is all for show.


  42. She’s from the “show-me” state, so maybe there is some show in this..

    I think she’s got some “Joe Biden” in her.  Now I love Joe, he’s a good man, and I would have considered voting for him in the Democratic primary, but he has a non-existent mind filter at times.  I wonder the same about Claire.  Claire’s a 100 times better than Jim Talent, so I’ll take her gaffes.

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