Former GOP Sen. Jack Danforth recently pressed Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley to oppose Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in 2018, gushing this way:
“I’ve known him since he was a law student…and I think he is a once-in-a-generation type person.”
With that and other “endorsements,” Hawley — who’s never held political office and has been AG for only six months — has become the latest big-smiling, ultra-con white male savior for Republicans in the Heartland.
He has many of the same attributes as Eric Greitens, the irresponsible political neophyte now serving as Missouri governor. And as Kris Kobach, the dangerous vote-suppressing secretary of state who’s running for governor of Kansas.
Meanwhile, the GOP power structure in Missouri muscled aside U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner from the St. Louis area, who had appeared ready to take on McCaskill.
UPDATED 6:30 p.m.: On Tuesday, pro-Hawley forces claimed Vice President Mike Pence had urged him to run.
But what besides being a white male Republican — which checks all the boxes for getting votes in large parts of rural Missouri — makes Hawley a superior candidate to McCaskill?
She’s a political veteran who’s served mostly with distinction as a Missouri House member, Jackson County prosecutor, Missouri auditor and U.S. senator the last 10-plus years.
She certainly trends “liberal” but also has stuck to some conservative stances in striking back against waste and fraud in government, while also being a tough-nosed former prosecutor.
True, McCaskill’s 30-year track record makes her the kind of “career politician” that Hawley, Greitens and Kobach recently have whined about. It’s all part of their playbook to make public service look like a dirty, tax-wasting scheme — even as they seek to exploit political offices themselves.
But McCaskill hasn’t been in the same office over these years. Instead, she’s gained experience working with people at all levels of government. That counts for a lot, especially when compared with Hawley.
After the Pence-loves-Hawley claim emerged Tuesday, McCaskill spokesman John LaBombard aptly told The Kansas City Star, “For a guy who promised Missourians he wasn’t just a ladder-climbing politician, he sure is taking a lot of advice from Washington, DC politicians on how to quickly climb that ladder.”
Still, I’ll bite: What supposedly makes Hawley a “once-in-a-generation type person”?
From his own website:
He’s a “recognized national expert on the Constitution and a leading constitutional litigator. He twice defeated the Obama Administration in litigation at the U.S. Supreme Court and has litigated some of the most important First Amendment cases of the last half century. He is now a leader among Attorneys General in the fight for conservative reform and limited government.
“A native of small-town Lexington, Missouri, Josh graduated from Rockhurst High School in Kansas City and went on to graduate with honors from Stanford University. Josh met his wife, Erin, at Yale Law School, where he served as president of the conservative Yale Federalist Society. Josh went on to clerk at the U.S. Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court.”
UPDATE 11 a.m. Wednesday: Unfortunately, Hawley has exaggerated his participation in “Supreme Court” cases. Here’s one example:
Hawley takes most of the typical ultra-con stances, such as staunchly opposing abortion and being pro-church rights.
But notice: When it comes to actually passing legislation or compromising with others to get actual work done in the halls of government, the short-tenured Hawley brings nothing to the table.
Agreed: McCaskill likely will have a tough race in 2018 in red-state Missouri. Hawley would be formidable, even without many political accomplishments, because of his appeal to rural conservatives.
But don’t ever assume the shrewd McCaskill is going to lose. Remember this key point: Democrat Jason Kander, from his secretary of state perch, came close to knocking off GOP Sen. Roy Blunt in 2016. That was even with Donald Trump sweeping the state by a much larger margin.
The 2018 Senate race has lots and lots of time to play out.
Here’s hoping Missourians will keep the well-qualified McCaskill in office in 2018.