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McCaskill launches first TV ad, Huckabee backs Akin

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 23, 2012 - U.S. Sen. Claire  McCaskill, D-Mo., has launched her first campaign spot – an early move that highlights how this year’s Senate contest is heating up fast.

McCaskill’s campaign won’t say where her ad is running or how much is being spent. But the markets do include broadcast and cable stations in St. Louis.

Her new ad, which touts the senator as “a strong, independent voice,” comes after months of a barrage of TV and radio attack ads by independent groups, including Crossroads GPS (with ties to former Bush advisor Karl Rove) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Those groups have spent close to $4 million to air such ads so far, according to analysts and the McCaskill campaign.

Several of her Republican opponents also have been on TV for months, notably St. Louis businessman John Brunner, who already has spent $1 million on TV spots.

The parade of ads contrasts with 2010, when the candidates generally held off running any TV ads until summer.

Candidates usually prefer to wait until the public is paying closer attention and to preserve their campaign cash. McCaskill's latest campaign report showed her with about $4.8 million in the bank.

McCaskill’s campaign says her ad highlights "a stark choice between Claire McCaskill, fighting as Missouri’s senator, and the outside special interests trying to buy the outcome of this election and consolidate power in Washington."

That's the theme in her ad as well, as the announcer says ominously that the attacks against McCaskill are "nothing compared to what their special interest agenda will do to you."

The ad portrays McCaskil as a senator "protecting Medicare, fighting to close tax loopholes for big oil companies and multi-millionaires, cutting taxes for middle-class families, creating jobs here at home and cracking down on unfair trade practices."

Said campaign manager Adrianne Marsh: "Claire’s stepped on a lot of big toes in Washington and now these corporate special interests are spending a lot of money on vicious attacks in a desperate effort to get rid of her."

The Missouri Republican Party asserted that the senator was misleading the public about her record.

“Chameleon Claire McCaskill is at it again — doing one thing in Washington and saying another in Missouri," said state GOP executive director Lloyd Smith. "Regardless of what she claims in her misleading political ads, the truth is McCaskill has voted with Barack Obama 95 percent of the time since 2010. Missourians will not forget that she cast the deciding vote for Obamacare, she supports Obama’s job-killing rules and regulations, she voted for the failed stimulus, and she has pushed the national debt over $15 trillion. The Obama-McCaskill record could not possibly be more out of touch with the people of Missouri.”

Start of update: Democrats point to the public record of the congressional proceedings leading up to the vote on the federal health-insurance changes that Republicans dub "Obamacare." The 60th senator to commit his support to allowing a vote, thus guaranteeing passage, was U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb.

McCaskill was one of the 60, and in that context, her vote was crucial -- along with that of all other Democrats and Republican Scott Brown, R-Mass., who also was among the 60. End update.

Huckabee endorses Akin

There’s also news in the three-way Republican contest for the GOP Senate nomination. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, now a commentator, has endorsed U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Wildwood.

Akin is competing against Brunner and former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman.

The former governor’s political action committee is called "Huck PAC." Huckabee is slated to join Akin at a March 3 rally in Joplin, Mo.

Huckabee said in a statement that Akin "has become known as a strong, independent conservative voice."

"Always placing principles over politics, Congressman Akin has remained true to our conservative ideals, especially his belief in the sanctity of human life," Huckabee said. "During his time in public office, Todd has been an ardent supporter and champion of pro-life legislation to protect the unborn. A strong fiscal conservative, as well as social conservative, Todd shares our values and has been a long time champion of tax reform; he also recognizes that the key to changing our economy around is job creation and will go to Washington to fight for what is best for all of Missouri."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.