Compromise put to test on Missouri Senate race
JEFFERSON CITY — Standing in front of about 100 supporters seated on the folding chairs of a Teamsters union hall, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill recently laid out the centerpiece of her re-election strategy in Missouri. It was prefaced with a warning of sorts.
“There are some of you who won't like me to say this,” McCaskill told the Democratic loyalists. “But … I'm a moderate. I believe in compromise.”
“Compromise” is not a word regularly uttered by McCaskill's three leading Republican opponents – U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman and businessman John Brunner. When it is spoken, it is not generally in favorable terms. Instead, some of the Republicans have been emphasizing their commitment to stand firm for conservative values – essentially mounting a no-compromise campaign.
The contrasting messages could provide an interesting choice for voters in the November election. Do you prefer principle over pragmatism? Or results over resolve?
There are a variety of reasons for the differing rhetoric coming from the Democratic incumbent and her Republican challengers.
One factor may be the current stage of the 2012 campaign season. In a primary, candidates must appeal to the party faithful, who tend to be more conservative (for Republicans) or more liberal (for Democrats) than the population as a whole. After winning a primary, candidates often move toward the center to pick up votes from independents.
Because McCaskill has no Democratic opposition in the Aug. 7 primary, she can afford to take a more centrist approach far earlier in the campaign.
Another factor in candidates' contrasting approaches may be the state's political tendencies. Although Missouri has a history as a swing state, voters in the Show-Me State also have earned a reputation of being a little more conservative than residents on the East and West coasts. And although Democrats currently hold most of Missouri's statewide executive offices, many political scientists say the state has increasingly leaned toward Republicans – citing, among other things, the inability of President Barack Obama to win Missouri in 2008 despite easily carrying the national vote.
“A Democrat winning statewide in Missouri has to say that he or she will work with Republicans, because there are more Republicans than Democrats in the state among the voters,” said David Kimball, an associate professor of political science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
So perhaps it's not surprising that McCaskill told the crowd at the Springfield union hall: “I don't dislike my Republican colleagues. I work with them.”
In that regard, the ability to compromise is a matter of political survival for McCaskill.
Yet McCaskill is not the only one espousing compromise as a virtue.
Former Republican Sen. John Danforth, who represented Missouri in Washington for 18 years, recently delivered a speech in St. Louis declaring that “government is broken” because of the uncompromising nature of partisan politics. Danforth called for everyone to give a little, suggesting Republicans should consent to a tax increase and Democrats should concede to substantial changes in entitlement programs.
Read more at the The Kansas City Star here.