McCaskill cites work to curb military waste, as Akin touts neck-and-neck status in new polls
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is traveling the state highlighting her efforts to protect rural post offices, as her Republican rival -- U.S. Rep. Todd Akin -- is hiring new staff and touting yet another poll that show the duo neck and neck.
McCaskill stopped in DeSoto, Potosi and Cuba on Thursday and planned additional visits Friday in Farmington and Scott City. At all the stops, she was citing her support for a one-year moratorium on closing rural post offices, which she says will preserve more than 100 such postal outlets in Missouri.
McCaskill noted that the delay had passed the Senate but had yet to be voted on in the GOP-controlled U.S. House, where Akin, R-Wildwood, now sits.
But Akin had other matters on his mind Thursday. His campaign was hiring new staff, including a former campaign aide to former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich. According to Politico, Rick Tyler had managed Gingrich's SuperPAC during his unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
Akin's allies were also taking note of a new poll, by Public Policy Polling, which showed that McCaskill has only a one-point lead -- in effect, a tie, when the margin of error is taken into account. PPP, which some analysts see as Democratic-leaning, had shown Akin with a similar tiny lead less than two weeks ago -- right after the airing of his controversial comment about "legitimate rape."
As the Beacon reported earlier:
U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va. -- and a Missouri native – was back in his home state Wednesday to vouch for fellow Sen. Claire McCaskill’s re-election bid, contending that she has played a crucial role in investigating wartime contracting abuses.
Webb joined McCaskill on a tour to promote efforts to pinpoint and clean up waste in military contracting. The two had put forward legislation earlier this year to bolster oversight, improve management, expand planning rules and alter contracting practices during military contingency operations overseas. McCaskill also conducted hearings on the topic in 2011, which resulted in some charges.
The campaign stops in western Missouri, coupled with a conference call with reporters, came as her Republican rival – U.S. Rep. Todd Akin – touted a new poll that showed him back with a slight lead, a scenario similar to poll matchups a few weeks ago.
In the last two weeks, polls haven’t been as kind to Akin, who has been under Republican pressure to withdraw since an Aug. 19 TV broadcast in which he contended that victims of “legitimate rape’’ rarely get pregnant.
Akin campaign manager Perry Akin, exuberantly touted the poll – by the Family Research Council, a pro-Akin group -- in an email Wednesday afternoon.
“Remember yesterday when the Party Bosses said they weren’t going to send Todd Akin a penny, even if he were tied with liberal Senator Clair(e) McCaskill?” said Perry Akin. “Bad news for the party bosses…Todd isn’t tied. According to a new poll released today, he is IN THE LEAD! Todd’s surge is due in no small part to grassroots leaders like you from across the country who have stood up and said that they stand by Todd Akin’s philosophy of limited government, cutting spending, and leading the charge to preserve life.”
Replied McCaskill spokesman Erik Dorey:"None of the spin from Todd Akin will change the fact that he's simply too far out of the mainstream. Todd Akin would privatize Social Security and Medicare, end federal student loans, and get rid of the minimum wage. Ranked the most moderate U.S. senator, Claire has forged compromises between parties to protect these important safety nets for Missouri families because, first and foremost, she's on our side."
Dorey was referring to ratings, such as the National Journal, which has ranked McCaskill among the top 10 most moderate members of the Senate since she took office in 2007.
New ads, new attacks
Akin and McCaskill both went up Wednesday with new ads. Hers is a positive spot that focuses on her family and background, while Akin has two spots – one on TV and one on the internet – that accuse McCaskill of being out of step with Missourians.
Akin cites McCaskill's votes for the economic stimulus, which she repeatedly has said helped Missouri balance its budget for three years without massive layoffs and prevented a deeper economic downturn nationally. Akin and other Republicans contend the stimulus didn't work and simply deepened the federal deficit and long-term debt.
Akin also points to McCaskill's vote in favor of the Affordable Care Act, which he and other Republicans say cut $716 billion from Medicare. Democrats and independent analysts say the cuts come from health-care providers, not the elderly, and note that the Medicare proposals touted by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan make similar-size cuts in the Medicare program's benefits.
During the McCaskill-Webb conference call, Webb defended her record by saying that McCaskill's successful activities to curb waste and abuse in military contracting “are just an indicator of what happens when you have people who know the issues and can come together and work across party lines and actually work to solve problems that are facing our country.”
“It’s a promise kept,” said McCaskill when asked why she was focusing on the issue. “I think it’s always refreshing when someone campaigns on an issue and then actually does what they say they would do. In this instance, I said during the campaign when I asked people for their vote six years ago that I would prioritize the way we spent money in Iraq and look at it with an auditor’s eye.”
McCaskill, a former state auditor, serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Akin serves on the House counterpart, and chairs a subcommittee that oversees the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Naval Reserves.
McCaskill cited Akin’s vote in 2003 against an amendment to require that normal competitive bidding procedures be followed in contracts dealing with Iraq’s oil infrastructure. The amendment ended up passing by a 248 to 179 margin.
“It’s a point in time where it could have made a difference,”McCaskill said, referring to Akin’s opposition. “If you began to pull the trigger on contract accountability back in 2003, there could have been billions of dollars saved. And he declined to participate and declined to support that measure that was in front of the Congress. He voted no. I think that’s probably one I bet he wishes he could take back.”
Akin spokesman Ryan Hite said in a telephone interview that he would have to ask the congressman about the rationale for the specific vote referred to by McCaskill. He noted that then-U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter – a California Republican who at the time of the vote chaired the House Appropriations Committee – also voted against the amendment in question.
Hite added that when Akin votes on matter related to defense spending, it usually revolves around spending taxpayer dollars “wisely, efficiently and effectively.”
Specifically, Hite pointed to Akin’s insistence for the Department of Defense to establish long-term contracts for Boeing-made F/A-18s.
“The way that they were ordering these through their contracts was on a yearly basis, every year they were doing different contracts rather than do a multi-year deal,” Hite said. “He and few other congressmen dug into the issue with him as lead looking into how they could do this more efficiently. They ended up getting something… in one of the defense authorization that changed the way this contract was handled.”