Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is offering the world a truly great political lesson in how to troll the opposition.
McCaskill just published in Politico Magazine an excerpt from her upcoming book, in which she describes in exhaustive detail how she secured re-election in 2012: She engineered the victory in the Republican primary of the extreme religious-right candidate, Todd Akin, who went on to destroy any chance of a Republican win with his infamous comment falsely alleging that “legitimate rape” could not result in pregnancy. McCaskill won the election with 55 percent of the vote to Akin’s 39 percent, even as Mitt Romney carried the state with 54 percent in the presidential race.
It’s a truly remarkable political narrative — the kind that you wouldn’t expect to see from someone until after they’ve left public office. The book is called Plenty Ladylike — a reference to a comment Akin made during the general campaign, when he said that McCaskill had been “more ladylike” during her first Senate race in 2006.
McCaskill first boosted Akin in the primary with attacks on his ultra-conservatism — and when it worked, she celebrated in style:
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 re-election 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.
This could be a cautionary tale for conservatives: Whenever liberals start expressing outrage about a right-wing candidate in the Republican primary — whether it’s Todd Akin or, say, Donald Trump — maybe they’re really just waving a big red cape and hoping the conservative base will charge right at it.
McCaskill ran this ad about Akin, lambasting him as “the most conservative congressman in Missouri,” “a crusader against bigger government,” having a “pro-family agenda” to outlaw contraception, and absolutely hating President Obama. “Missouri’s true conservative,” the ad said, “is just too conservative.”
“As it turned out,” she boasts, “we spent more money for Todd Akin in the last two weeks of the primary than he spent on his whole primary campaign.”
The ad is still viewable on the McCaskill campaign’s YouTube account.
McCaskill even got messages through to Akin’s people through intermediaries — including one direct conversation between her own pollster and the Akin campaign — about which ads he should be running. “This was the most fun I’d had in a long time.”
All of this brought her to the night of the Republican primary, when she watched the results with an intense focus. “That day — August 7, 2012 — felt like my own election, even though I had no opponent in the Democratic primary,” she writes. “Never before had I been so engaged and so committed to another’s race.”
McCaskill also includes some serious trolling of Akin’s religious, even messianic delusions about himself:
I do believe his nomination reaffirmed more than ever his conviction that a higher power had chosen him for this race. For Akin, government service is defined and guided by his religious faith. He was known to start committee meetings with prayers that included “in Jesus’ name.” He’d made religion a centerpiece of his campaign, saying his faith got him into politics and directed the things he did once in office. In my opinion his belief that he is a “holy warrior” doing battle with the forces of evil liberalism blinded him to the realities of political life and what might be best for his party. In the first lines of his election-night speech, he thanked God for hearing the prayers of his supporters and granting him victory. He probably didn’t realize that we had also been praying for his victory.
Yes, Akin’s victory in the GOP primary was brought about by a higher power — the McCaskill for Senate campaign committee.
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