August 12th, 2015

The varsity versus the JV: remember Claire McCaskill and Todd Akin?

Claire McCaskill certainly remembers, because (as was strongly suspected even at the time) she helped engineer Akin’s win in the 2012 Republican primary for senator in Missouri, since she was well aware he’d be a weaker opponent against her than his major opposition, John Brunner.

Now she has published an article in Politico describing some of the details of her machinations. It’s an excerpt from a memoir of hers that’s just come out:

It was August 7, 2012, and I was standing in my hotel room in Kansas City about to shotgun a beer for the first time in my life. I had just made the biggest gamble of my political career—a $1.7 million gamble—and it had paid off. Running for reelection to the U.S. Senate as a Democrat from Missouri, I had successfully manipulated the Republican primary so that in the general election I would face the candidate I was most likely to beat. And this is how I had promised my daughters we would celebrate.

McCaskill describes how she had done polling and research that led her to conclude that Akin—who at the time was polling poorly and was unlikely to win the primary—would be her weakest opponent and relatively easy to defeat. The rest of the article describe how she went about trying to help him get nominated; please read the whole thing, replete with details such as this:

As it turned out, we spent more money for Todd Akin in the last two weeks of the primary than he spent on his whole primary campaign.

If we were going to spend that kind of money on ads for Akin, I wanted to get him nominated and start disqualifying him with independent voters at the same time. By that prescription, our ad would have to include Akin’s statement that Obama was a “menace to civilization” and that Akin had said of himself that he was “too conservative” for Missouri. This presentation made it look as though I was trying to disqualify him, though, as we know, when you call someone “too conservative” in a Republican primary, that’s giving him or her a badge of honor.

There’s much much more. But we all know what happened in the end—Akin was nominated with McCaskill’s assist, put his foot in it big time and alienated voters, and McCaskill now sits in the Senate and will till at least 2018.

Her piece has an air of very proud triumph, even though the events occurred three years ago. It also is a primer, a how-to for the future. My guess is that that’s why it’s being published now, as an election guide for the left and a reminder as to how it’s done. And you know what? If it happened again, the conservative electorate in Missouri and elsewhere would again fall right into the trap.

Here’s an interesting sidelight: Rick Hasen, an election law expert and professor, indicates that McCaskill may be admitting to acts that indicate she violated election law when she describes giving advice on tactics to the Akin camp through intermediaries she knew. MCaskill had decided that an ad showing a Huckabee endorsement for Akin would be golden for the Akin camp, which had unaccountably pulled it. She wanted Akin to win, and so she wanted that ad back up there, and this is what she did:

On the Thursday before the election, I called Ron Gladney, the husband of Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, a Republican from Missouri. I asked him if he could get a message to the Akin camp to put the Huckabee ad back up. Of course Gladney started laughing and asked, “Are you kidding?” “No,” I replied. “If he gets the Huckabee ad back up by Friday, he’s going to win.” I also placed a call to Michael Kelley, a Democratic Party and labor operative who was friends with a former Akin staffer, and asked him to convey the same message to the Akin camp. A short time later my campaign manager, Adrianne Marsh, got a call from the Akin campaign. The person on the line wanted to talk to our pollster. Adrianne called me, and I gave clearance, allowing Kiley to speak in broad generalities. Three hours later the Huckabee ad was back up.

For me, there are a lot of unanswered questions there. I get what McCaskill was doing, but what was Gladney thinking? He’s the husband of a Republican member of Congress, but is he perhaps a Democrat? Because if he’s a Republican, why would he not be more suspicious of what McCaskill was doing? In fact, his “Are you kidding?” response to McCaskill, and her response to him, indicated he knew full well that she was trying to orchestrate Akin’s win, and the only explanation for that would have been that she felt very confident she would beat him in the general. So what was Gladney’s motivation for co-operating? Was he a McCaskill supporter? Or was he so strongly pro-Akin that he thought Akin would be the best candidate against McCaskill despite whatever McCaskill thought? Or did he just not care?

And then there’s whoever it was from the Akin campaign who called McCaskill’s campaign manager back in order to speak to the McCaskill pollster. Their motives are more clear: even though they probably were suspicious of McCaskill’s motives, their job was to get Akin nominated and her pollster had information to help them do it. The fact that her motive was her conviction that Akin would be toast in the general was not their concern; I suppose they had faith (or they were paid to have faith) that Akin could surge in the general and beat her, no matter what she thought. It is also interesting that McCaskill had a lot more money than they, and since they couldn’t even afford polling, hers was the only polling information they had access to.

It was JV operation (Akins) versus varsity operation (McCaskill) all the way.

This is what Rick Hasen thinks about it:

Rep. [Justin] Amash contends this should count as illegal coordination, and I think this does raise a serious question about coordination. The Senator’s campaign was sending a message to the Akin campaign about what strategy to follow.

So, will possible charges against McCaskill ever be followed up? I think we know the answer: unlikely.

15 Responses to “The varsity versus the JV: remember Claire McCaskill and Todd Akin?”

  1. Cornhead Says:

    Waiting for that fine or indictment of Claire by the DOJ.

  2. neo-neocon Says:


    I’ll say one thing—if Ted Cruz ever were to be elected president, and if the statute of limitations hasn’t run out on it by that time, I think you’d see an indictment or at least an investigation by the DOJ.

  3. AlanW Says:

    This sounds like she is not planning on running for reelection to the Senate. Maybe she expects to have a nice position in the Hilary Administration.

  4. George Pal Says:

    The law is never more than the pretense of the legislature, the selectivity of the executive, and the sum of its exceptions. What we need is another round of election reform – this time with real false teeth in it.

  5. TomC Says:

    The audacity of McCaskill to gloat about this publicly is amazing. She has admitted to cheating and disenfranchising voters. Sickening.

  6. AMartel Says:

    Business as usual.

  7. jack Says:

    Watched her on Charlie Rose. She defended Hillary to the hilt on everything … everything.

    Of course Obama also.

  8. Yancey Ward Says:

    This is against the campaign finance laws, though I suspect that if it were truly enforced, you would see indictments of everyone. This sort of coordination is exactly what the John Doe investigations in Wisconsin were supposedly trying to find, and failed. Of course, in Wisconsin, you didn’t have the governor or any of his supporters writing in Politico bragging about breaking the law.

  9. neo-neocon Says:

    Yancey Ward:

    Those laws are also what they’ve got against Menendez of NJ.

    Oh, and let’s not forget the trumped-up—but highly effective—charges against Ted Stevens of Alaska.

  10. Ymarsakar Says:

    And elections are supposed to fix this via reform? How exactly is that possible.

  11. Maureen Rice Says:

    Is the Clinton campaign running this even now? Who is more likely to win against her: Trump, the charlatan, who wins whether he loses to her or not? (He’ll call in the favor, no doubt.). Would she rather “run” against DT, or against someone with actual experience of governance? Walker, Jindal, Perry, even Pataki or Bush are much better candidates.

  12. Dennis Says:

    Neo said:
    “And you know what? If it happened again, the conservative electorate in Missouri and elsewhere would again fall right into the trap.”

    I think Neo is correct. That is what happens when conservatives hate their own leaders more than they hate the other side.

  13. Eric Says:

    Dennis: “That is what happens when conservatives hate their own leaders more than they hate the other side.”

    There it is again. Conservatives are wrong to assign leadership of the Right to the GOP.

    The GOP can fulfill its role in electoral politics once conservatives fulfill their greater role as Right activists.

    The Trump phenomenon is an exploitation of the failure of conservatives to win or even honestly compete as Marxist-method activists in the only social cultural/political game there is.

    Conservatives who blame the GOP for not leading the way are passing the buck on responsibilities that belong primarily to the Right, not the GOP.

  14. Eric Says:

    How much of the internecine hostility on the Right is engineered by the Left but also foreign actors, like the Russians?

    Critically study the range of rhetoric from supposed ‘burn it all’ conservatives and highlight the parts that accord with the POVs of our foreign competitors.

  15. Paul in Boston Says:

    Democrats have been doing variations of this since the dawn of time. One of the favorites is to run dummy candidates here in Massachusetts. If James P. jones appears to be a strong candidate there will suddenly be James B. Jones on the ballot as well as a james Jonas just to make sure to split enough votes so that JPJ loses. Dems are crooks, period.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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