SPRINGFIELD, Missouri — A video recording has emerged of Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill telling supporters that she doesn’t care about losing votes in the state’s “bootheel,” the southeastern most tip of the state that is rural and solidly conservative.
Republican challenger Josh Hawley featured the video recording in a new TV ad that hit the airwaves Thursday, using Ms. McCaskill’s own words to hammer home his message that the two-term senator has betrayed Missouri’s farmers, ranchers and rural residents.
“If we do our job in St. Louis County, you know, I can give up a few votes in the bootheel,” Ms. McCaskill says in the video recording, apparently captured on a cellphone as she gave a pep talk to campaign volunteers.
The campaign showed the ad and the clip to The Washington Times.
Rural voters across Missouri are key to Mr. Hawley’s strategy against Ms. McCaskill in an incredibly tight race that could determine who controls the Senate.
Ms. McCaskill’s charge to her volunteers is an honest assessment of the electoral math at play in Missouri. She needs big turnout in the urban Democratic strongholds of St. Louis and Kansas City to overcome the Republican-leaning vote in much of the rest of the state.
The opposite calculation is true for Mr. Hawley, who spent Wednesday on a tour of agriculture communities in western Missouri.
Still, the voice-over announcer in the ad spells out the implication of the incumbent senator’s pep talk: “No wonder Claire McCaskill votes against your gun rights, against agriculture and against conservative judges like Brett Kavanaugh.”
The announcer adds, “Claire McCaskill has given up on you.”
At a campaign stop Wednesday at a farm in southwest Missouri, Mr. Hawley told a small gathering of farmers that his opponent was never on their side, not on environmental regulations, not on trade and not on confirming Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.
“It’s a pattern for her,” he said, standing on a flatbed trailer in a barn. “It’s a pattern with her on agriculture too.”
The overwhelming support in rural Missouri was crucial to President Trump’s carrying the state in 2016 by 19 points and Mr. Hawley is working for a repeat of the 2016 turnout.
Farmers’ support for Mr. Trump, and by extension Mr. Hawley, has been tested by the president’s get-tough trade policies that resulted in retaliation against U.S. agricultural commodities by China and the European Union.
The Trump administration attempted to cushion the blow to agriculture with a $12 billion bailout for farmer’s trade war loses.
Mr. Trump also moved to end the summer ban on high-ethanol blends of gasoline, which would boost sales of corn, a major crop in Missouri.
Cattle, another major commodity in Missouri, hasn’t suffered in the trade wars and has thrived instead.
“Cattle exports are the best they’ve been in years,” said Tom Kissee, co-owner of the Springfield Livestock Marketing Center, going on to call Mr. Trump’s tough trade policies long overdue.
For Mr. Kissee, the Hawley campaign’s criticism of Ms. McCaskill rang true.
“It is apparent how [Ms. McCaskill] votes that it is not the will of the state,” he said. “She is locked into the Democratic way.”
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