Sen. Claire McCaskill today set a feisty, defiant tone for her re-election drive, declaring that Republicans were busy "spinning distortions and lies" about the health care bill.
During a kick-off event in Independence, the Democrat said if Missourians give the new law a chance, "They're really going to be a pleasantly surprised."
Advocating legislation viewed as wildly unpopular in Missouri, McCaskill painted the measure as a way to finally get "freeloaders" who refuse to buy health coverage into the coverage pool and ease the strain on those who pay for health insurance.
"We have a mandate now," McCaskill said. "The mandate is through the emergency room. So if someone decides to buy a new Harley Davidson instead of paying for health care, we pay their bills when they show up at the emergency room. That's why our insurance rates keep going up.
"This is the first time I've ever seen Republicans so anxious to defend the freeloaders."
She said her three leading GOP opponents -- Sarah Steelman, John Brunner and Todd Akin -- plan to privatize Medicare and Social Security and "do away with the federal government's involvement in student loans.
"Those are three big non-starters with Missourians," McCaskill said.
The event, at an Independence strip mall that will be home to the Missouri Democratic Party’s Coordinated Campaign Office in eastern Jackson County, suggested that McCaskill plans an aggressive, right-back-at-'em campaign aimed at getting Democrats out of their defensive crouch.
She said she is proud to be a "middle of the roader" and someone who embraces compromise.
At the end of a brief news conference, McCaskill started walking away, then stopped and returned to tell reporters that President Obama approves of her decision not to attend the Democratic National Convention in September.
"He thinks it's the right thing to do," the senator said. "The notion that I would be out hobnobbing with donors at cocktail parties after Labor Day rather than here in Missouri fighting, if the Republicans think I'm that dumb they've got me confused with somebody else."