McCaskill rightly opposes Gorsuch, makes her 2018 race tougher


Claire McCaskill

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill on Friday chose the hard path of doing the right thing over taking the easier route toward re-election in 2018.

The Democratic senator bluntly — and properly — announced she would oppose Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a statement about Gorsuch, McCaskill said, “He is evasive, but his body of work isn’t. Whether it is a freezing truck driver or an autistic child, he has shown a stunning lack of humanity. And he has been an activist  —  for example, writing a dissent on a case that had been settled, in what appears to be an attempt to audition for his current nomination.”

Here are some con and pro points on McCaskill’s actions Friday.

By rolling over for Donald Trump and Gorsuch, McCaskill could have avoided at least some of the opposition she will face in a heavily Republican state in 2018.

A “yes” vote on Gorsuch would have irritated her followers, but they would have returned. It also would have at least given her some bona fides with some of the more moderate Republican voters she must pick up in 2018 to have a shot at re-election.

Keep in mind, McCaskill won 2012 re-election partly because her opponent was gaffe-prone Todd “If it’s a legitimate rape” Akin. Next year, Republicans will be pulling out all stops to beat her.

The “no” on Gorsuch will add fuel to that fire, with conservative organizations such as the National Rifle Association whipping up voters to oppose McCaskill.

Going along on Gorsuch could have muted — though certainly not have stopped — the kind of criticism that’s being aimed at her by Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley and other GOP insiders.

But McCaskill’s move Friday doesn’t doom her re-election in 2018, not at all.

— It shows her most ardent supporters that she won’t abandon some core Democratic principals of sticking up for the working people.

— There’s no obvious GOP candidate best positioned to defeat her in 2018. Is it U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner? Businessman John Brunner,  runnerup to Eric Greitens in 2016’s Republican gubernatorial primary? A current statewide GOP officer holder? In 2012, a bruising Republican primary ended with Akin winning (with some covert McCaskill support) and Brunner the runnerup.

— There’s still plenty of time for McCaskill to tack back to her slightly more moderate roots on votes in the U.S. Senate the next 18 months or so.

— Finally, Missourians know that McCaskill is a super smart, savvy, gutsy elected official. Her backers are confident she will find a way to get the number of votes she needs to win next year.

McCaskill faced a tough road in her 2018 re-election no matter what she did on Gorsuch. I’m glad she didn’t choose the route of political expediency.