Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) says that she influenced the 2012 Republican Senate primary in a bid to help Tea Party Republican Todd Akin win the primary.
Her motive: She knew she could crush Akin in the general election, which she did.
As McCaskill writes in her recent book “Plenty Ladylike: A Memoir,” which was excerpted by Politco Magazine, the incumbent Senator — who ran in the Democratic primary unopposed — paid $US40,000 one month before the primary to take a poll of Missouri Republicans, noting that “this election called for an unusual strategy.” She found that Akin, a longshot candidate with minimal financial support, had a message that resonated with a large amount of the Republican caucus in Missouri, but one that would sink him among moderates, making him the perfect opponent.
“His extreme positions on social issues and ridiculous public statements made him anathema to many independent voters,” McCaskill writes.
With this information in mind, McCaskill says she invested $US1.7 million in a TV ad that would help Akin get his message across to the uber-conservative Republicans that could swing the primary election.
As McCaskill explains, “we came up with the idea for a ‘dog whistle’ ad, a message that was pitched in such a way that it would be heard only by a certain group of people. I told my team we needed to put Akin’s uber-conservative bona fides in an ad — and then, using reverse psychology, tell voters not to vote for him. And we needed to run the hell out of that ad.”
The ad came across as McCaskill accusing Akin of being “too conservative,” a message that resonated with the Missouri Republican base and played right into the hands of the democratic Senator.
“Our telephones were ringing off the hook with people saying, ‘Just because she’s telling me not to vote for him, I’m voting for him. That’s the best ad for Akin I’ve ever seen!’ McCaskill recalls.
McCaskill says she even went as far as to reach out to the Akin campaign, who could not afford to do their own polling, and recommended that they run certain campaign ads over others that she knew would result in boosts in the polls. While this was all part of her strategy, she claims that on the night of the Republican primary, she had a moment of panic.
“All of a sudden I understood the enormous risk I had taken: I had spent millions trying to control the outcome of the Republican primary. If it worked, some would call it political genius; if it failed, and especially if I went on to lose in November, it would be called the stupidest thing I had ever done.”
Akin would win the Republican primary and then get destroyed by McCaskill in the general election, just as the Senator had planned.
“Akin said so many controversial things that we began calling him ‘the gift that keeps on giving.’ Little did we know what he would say next,” McCaskill recalls.
The Senator also says that she spent more money in the last two weeks of the Republican primary on her “dog whistle” ad than Akin spent on his entire primary campaign.
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