Three excellent conservatives are seeking to replace President Obama’s Missouri apologist, Sen. Claire McCaskill, in the U. S. Senate. No matter what you hear in negative advertising, each is a reliable conservative. This choice was difficult, but I decided to support former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman.
Like her primary opponents, Steelman is conservative, and she has demonstrated it. During her tenure in the state senate, she held fast against state financing of the St. Louis baseball stadium, not blinking when establishment forces threatened to cut funding for the Missouri School of Science and Technology in her district. Steelman didn’t just support the constitutional amendment defining and protecting traditional marriage, she sponsored it. As state treasurer she initiated policies to prevent the state from doing business with businesses serving terrorists. Her financial expertise, as evidenced by her masters degree in finance, will be helpful when the new senate Republican majority tackles the nation’s budget problems. Former vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s willingness to endorse Steelman and back up the endorsement with personal appearances in Missouri and recorded robocalls, speaks well for the legitimacy of Steelman’s conservative credentials.
My prior concerns about Steelman’s candidacy have been resolved. While Steelman was originally elected to the state senate with the active backing of organized labor and predominantly Democrat trial lawyers, there is no danger that Steelman will serve those interests in the U. S. Senate. Her 1998 senate campaign was the incidental beneficiary of backlash against an incumbent Democrat of whom Big Labor wanted to “make an example” for straying from the reservation. Steelman thanked them with courtesy public appearances but no substance, and Big Labor doesn’t support her any more. The trial lawyer support was out of respect to one particular trial lawyer, Steelman’s conservative husband David (the 1992 Republican nominee for Missouri attorney general who came within a whisker of beating Democrat Jay Nixon during a very Democratic year). In this election, Big Labor and Democrat trial lawyers fully support McCaskill, and Steelman owes them nothing.
On the practical side, I was initially concerned about Steelman’s “stage presence,” particularly when contrasted with the polished liar McCaskill. But Steelman’s skills have improved. Voters may even identify more with her for being less scripted and unpolished. While I abhor identity politics, Steelman’s high-profile presence, both on the ticket and in the senate, will be helpful to negate the Democrats’ Big Lie that Republicans have a “war against women.”
I am also offended by a tactic of the “Now or Never” Super PAC that runs ads supporting Steelman. The PAC’s name, which runs at the end of every commercial, is designed to convey the false impression that Steelman has the backing of conservative hero Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). Knowledgeable conservatives recognize “Now or Never” as the title of DeMint’s recent book, and that he has a PAC that supports a select few true conservatives (like Ted Cruz, the surprise winner of this week’s Texas runoff). I myself was fooled until I checked it out. But DeMint’s PAC (Senate Conservatives Fund) is not involved in Missouri’s primary. The Now or Never PAC is run by financier Rex Sinquefield and is not taking part in any campaigns other than the Missouri senate race. However, there is no evidence that Steelman is involved in any way with this PAC or its tactics, so it would be unfair to hold her accountable for it.
My decision to back Steelman was difficult because, in many ways, Rep. Todd Akin is most deserving of the nomination. He has been a consistent conservative leader in the House, and he has run an exemplary campaign, without resorting to trashing his opponents. The charge that sounds the worst, his “earmark” for a highway that would benefit family land holdings, is absolutely bogus. The road in question is Missouri Highway 141, the new “outer belt” in St. Louis County, which benefits thousands of people the same way it incidentally benefits his family. Akin has “paid his dues” to conservatives. Unfortunately, public gratitude these days has a very short shelf life.
But the bottom line is the need to defeat McCaskill. While recent polling shows all three candidates defeating McCaskill, Akin does so by the smallest margin. But what concerns me the most is how Democrats are actively promoting Akin for the nomination. The McCaskill campaign and Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Majority PAC have devoted thousands of dollars in televised ads trashing both Steelman and Brunner. Their “attack” ads against Akin, on the other hand, use buzzwords designed to appeal to Republican voters, phrases like “crusader” (a positive portrayal to everyone except Muslim fundamentalists), “pro-family” (genuine Democrat attacks ads use the term “anti-choice”) and “Missouri’s true conservative.” The normally loquacious McCaskill has “no comment” when asked about the ads. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which has abandoned any pretense of being anything but a PR arm of the Democratic Party, endorsed Akin in the primary, even while admitting it disagrees with him on virtually everything, taking the opportunity to trash the others. The professional pols clearly believe Akin is McCaskill’s best shot at re-election.
Retired businessman John Brunner originally seemed to be best suited to appeal to a public that is sick and tired of politicians. But his dishonest slash-and-burn televised attacks on Akin and Steelman make him look like the worst of the political class. He makes a positive impression in his positive ads, but in the uncontrolled setting of a debate, he’s not ready for prime time. His pledge to cut spending rings hollow when he can’t name a single specific program he would cut. While he leads McCaskill by the largest margin in current polling, that advantage would likely evaporate when his lack of substance becomes more apparent to voters (with the help of McCaskill’s multi-million-dollar machine). Brunner is too big a risk.
On balance, Sarah Steelman is Republicans’ best choice.