Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill made the unusual decision to run attack ads against all three primary candidates running to be her Republican opponent, but one of those attack ads was not like the others. Sarah Steelman, who was most recently Missouri state treasurer, was attacked on ethics -- the Democrats' ads used phrases like "more pay to play" and "more inside deals." Businessman John Brunner was attacked as unreliable -- he didn't vote in 16 elections, he was in debt. But the ad against Rep. Todd Akin called him "the most conservative congressman in Missouri," "a crusader against bigger government," someone who has a "pro-family agenda," and has called President Obama "a complete menace to our civilization." In other words, all the things that Republicans typically tout about themselves in Republican primaries.
But McCaskill is looking to November's vote — polls show her at a disadvantage for reelection — and her strategy is that Akin's strengths with Republicans will be a weakness in a general election. She told the Kansas City Star the race would be between "somebody who believes that Pell Grants and the federal government having some involvement in helping kids get to college is third-stage cancer versus somebody who believes that has distinguished us from the rest of the world." That was echoed in a tweet by Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Matt Canter: "Just a reminder folks, Todd Akin compared student loans to stage III cancer."
But even if she got the opponent she wanted, McCaskill still faces a tough campaign. She polled better against Akin than against Steelman and Brunner, but she's still in the low- to mid-40s, Politico reports. Akin didn't run any negative ads in the primary.