Missouri GOP Senate candidate hopes voters focus on campaign

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Sen. Claire McCaskill regularly trumpets the 50 town hall meetings she held in Missouri last year as she seeks re-election to a third term. Her likely Republican opponent, state Attorney General Josh Hawley, says he plans to make double the number of stops during a statewide campaign tour.

Hawley, who has endured rumblings from within his own party that his campaign has been too timid, said he will make 100 stops at businesses throughout the state as he seeks to defeat McCaskill and capture a crucial seat for the GOP in the November midterms. The tour, which includes a few appearances over the past few weeks, resumes Friday with stops in Springfield and Conway.

Hawley said the resignation of former Republican Gov. Eric Greitens’ last week has left voters with “more bandwidth now to focus on the race” with McCaskill. He said the tour is aimed at drawing attention to the difficulties facing Missouri workers and laid blame on McCaskill, who he said has “failed the middle class of our state.”

“The basic facts as I see them are this: that hardworking, responsible people who play by the rules increasingly have no place to stand in our economy,” Hawley told The Associated Press. “Wages are stagnant, health care costs are out of control, jobs have gone overseas and the costs of education and raising kids are suffocating our families.”

Fellow Republicans have complained that Hawley wasn’t campaigning hard enough. The campaign tour could help reassure the Republican base about Hawley’s candidacy, said Truman State University political scientist Candace Young. She said he’ll also have a chance to connect with a lot of people and could earn financial support from businesses and other pro-business donors.

McCaskill’s campaign criticized the move.

“The difference between Josh Hawley and Claire McCaskill is that Claire is more interested in hearing from families, workers, and veterans than the people in the boardroom,” McCaskill spokesman Eric Mee said in a statement. “That’s why she opposed the tax bill that gave a huge windfall to corporations and drug companies, supports raising the minimum wage, and opposes the Right to Work for Less initiative that Josh Hawley has championed.”

McCaskill has been emphasizing the more than 50 town hall meetings she held in Missouri last year, primarily in rural areas dominated by supporters of President Donald Trump. She has been campaigning hard, holding eight events in three days last week to meet with veterans and military families who support her.

The race has been complicated by the distraction posed by Greitens, who resigned while facing investigations stemming from an extramarital affair and his campaign’s alleged use of a donor list belonging to a charity he founded and with legislators discussing whether to seek his impeachment.

Even though Hawley’s office conducted multiple investigations of Greitens and Hawley called on him to resign, Democrats for months worked to tie him to the governor.

The Democratic Senate Majority PAC recently launched an ad campaign criticizing Hawley for being too soft on the governor, and PAC spokesman Chris Hayden has said the group wouldn’t pull the ad just because Greitens resigned.

Missouri’s primary is Aug. 7, and the general election is Nov. 6. Hawley and McCaskill face primary challengers, but they’re considered the frontrunners.

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