On day one of Republican Josh Hawley’s run to unseat Democratic Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, her campaign called him a liar. Only, the two “lies” in question are not lies. And if this is the tone now, what will next November be like?
A statement released by McCaskill’s campaign manager, David Kirby, said the Missouri attorney general “lied about whether he would live in Jefferson City, as the law requires. And he lied for nearly two months about whether he was running for Senate.”
Hawley, who is 37 and was elected just last year, has an apartment in the state capital. As we’ve said before, the Missouri Democratic Party’s attempt to make the fact that he doesn’t live there full-time into some sort of scandal is a reach. The claim that Hawley lied about whether he was running is even more tenuous. Virtually all candidates remain coy about their intentions right up until they announce.
Hawley set up an “exploratory committee” in August. In September, a supporter sent out a fundraising letter saying that yes, he had decided to run and checks could be made out to Josh Hawley for Senate. Democrats complained that Hawley was breaking Federal Election Commission limits on candidates who are only exploring a run, and Hawley aides countered that his wasn’t an official exploratory committee, but a normal campaign committee with “exploratory” in the name. That’s too cute, maybe, and too typical, but to call it a lie is silly. Everyone knew he was running, and he is.
Senator, your team ought to reserve that word for the real thing. Especially given your own three-Pinocchio suggestion you’d never had a call or meeting with the Russian ambassador.
In contrast, Hawley’s announcement video went after McCaskill in ways that could have referred to any incumbent in any year and either party: “[S]he’s been in D.C. forever. She’s turned her back on farmers. She’s ignored working families” and “doesn’t represent us.”
But for months, his party has been taking absurd shots at McCaskill, too. Like the National Republican Senatorial Committee ad that went after her for zipping around on a private plane. (Ever hear of Tom Price, guys? Or Betsy DeVos?)
The allegation that McCaskill is so out of touch she thinks “normal people” can afford a private plane refers to a man who informed McCaskill at one of her town halls that the “freedom to fly around” has become “affordable” for a “normal person.” She answered by joking, “Will you remind [them of] that when they come after me about my husband’s private plane? That normal people can afford it?” To pretend she doesn’t know ordinary folks can’t afford a private plane is why some ordinary folks hate politics.
The NRSC has also gone after McCaskill’s friendship with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, in an email accusing her of “turning toward the more radical elements” of her party through her “embrace of extremist Elizabeth Warren...Claire has ignored the will of her constituents and buddied up to Warren.” That is such weak java that even GOP partisans might conclude McCaskill isn’t as vulnerable as advertised.
On the contrary, this may well be the toughest race in the country next year, in part because it will most likely be between these two likable, smart candidates. Is it too much to ask that they also fight fair? On second thought, don’t answer that.