MSU's George Connor on McCaskill's Win, Obama Moving Forward

Nov 7, 2012

Political pundits couldn’t help but weigh in on Democrat Claire McCaskill’s 15 point victory Tuesday night over Republican challenger Todd Akin, a race for Missouri’s U.S. Senate seat that gained a tremendous amount of attention following Congressman Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment.

"If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," Akin told KTVI’s The Jaco Report in August when asked whether there were any circumstances under which he'd support a woman's right to an abortion.

On Wednesday, a panel of experts, including Missouri State University’s Dr. George Connor, Political Science department head, agreed that the public’s selection of McCaskill was more a vote against Todd Akin.

“Especially if you combine the McCaskill vote with the vote on health exchanges,” Connor said. “We are so vehemently opposed to Obamacare that we amended the constitution, whether that makes any sense or not, but it was Claire McCaskill just two years ago trumpeting health care across the state. So the fact that people could vote for Claire McCaskill and yet vote against the health care in the same election, to me, says that they were voting against Congressman Akin.”

Dr. Connor, speaking on KCUR’s Up to Date, added that a recent television ad with Republican’s Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Senators Blunt, Danforth and Bond declaring Akin as unfit to serve in the Senate, was “a telling ad.”

“There may not be a Republican establishment in the State of Missouri anymore, but I think those voices resonated with a lot of mainstream Republican voters yesterday.”

But callers to the show were quick to point out McCaskill’s ability to work with both parties, and as one door-to-door volunteer stated, the Senator worked an incredible ground game urging Missourians to get out the vote.

Those votes for McCaskill, however, did not help President Obama in the Show-Me State. Former Governor Romney won the state’s 10 Electoral College votes by a 54-44 percent margin.

“The level of animosity toward the President is so great that there’s a barrier there, that even the most ardent Todd Akin… if you’re disgusted with Congressman Akin you can vote for McCaskill, but you just can’t make that leap all the way to President Obama,” Connor said.

There’s no time to celebrate re-election for President Obama, who must work with a status-quo Congress to solve the so-called “fiscal cliff.” Will lawmakers reach a deal by January? Dr. George Connor is skeptical.

“I think if the President is a bit more proactive – if his strategy changes – not just waiting for the Republicans to change their strategy. But I think if his strategy changes, he’s going to have to come to the table with something that can be acceptable to a majority of the Republicans in the House to start with.”

Connor, who was joined on Up to Date with Kansas University’s Burdett Loomis, and Dave Helling from the Kansas City Star, believes Mr. Obama’s major challenge aside from avoiding falling off the “fiscal cliff” will be immigration, which he finds a more manageable task than health care.

Back in Missouri, where Governor Jay Nixon was also voted to a second term Tuesday, the key will be the changes in the state legislature, says Connor. The Missouri House will now consist of 110 Republicans, which breaks the record set two years ago of 106.

“The big debate is not Democrats versus Republicans, but Republicans in the House and Republicans in the Senate, and sometimes Republicans within both parties,” Connor said. “We’ve seen… we have a new Speaker now, with Speaker Tilley gone. Other, perhaps lightning rod sorts of candidates like Senator Crowell are also gone. I think the real hope is that Republicans can work with Republicans and then the Governor has a better chance of working with the Legislature. But I really think the ball is in the Republican Party’s court in terms of tax credits, the issue that’s been a stumbling block over the last three years.”