Claire McCaskill, Missouri's senior United States Senator, is gearing up for a re-election campaign in 2018 that is certain to be a tough haul. She is a Democrat in a state in that gave Donald Trump a resounding victory in 2016.
Senator McCaskill has been in the news lately as she pondered what to do on the confirmation vote for Neil Gorsuch to sit on the Supreme Court. Most Democratic senators had already committed to a filibuster of the Gorsuch nomination, but Claire and a handful of others who face imminent reelection bids in red states were remaining silent on their intent - perhaps in the hope that something like the apocalypse would intervene and they wouldn't have to make the tough decision after all.
But over the last few days the holdouts began declaring themselves. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia both came out and said that they would vote in favor of Judge Gorsuch. McCaskill teased the situation for awhile, reminding some of her more vocal constituents that if Gorsuch was not approved, the next nomination could be worse - but in the end she bit the bullet and announced that she would vote against the jurist.
Claire, a former Missouri State Auditor, knows how to count. If she had seen an easier path to re-election victory by voting for Gorsuch, I have no doubt that she would have chosen that option. I think she did a careful analysis of the voter situation here in Missouri and decided that the Trump people would be voting against her regardless of her position on Gorsuch, and that siding with the nominee would offend some in her own party to the point where she could actually lose votes. In the end she chose to protect what she had.
Claire McCaskill is a very hard campaigner, and it would be a mistake to write her off. Six years ago she also faced a tough re-election bid, but the GOP came to her rescue by nominating a weak and flawed candidate to run against her. (Some here in the "show me" state believe that clever advertising by Claire helped channel Republican primary votes to Todd Akin, the beatable candidate.) Whoever the Republicans nominate this time around, that person will go into the general election facing a most formidable opponent - and it will be, as we like to say here in Missouri - a real horse race!