The war for women in Missouri’s Senate race

October 29, 2012

KANSAS CITY  – The war on women has morphed into a last-minute battle for women’s votes.

In Missouri, both incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Republican challenger Rep. Todd Akin aired new television commercials this weekend aimed squarely at the female voter.

It’s no surprise that the ads are about as different as the views espoused by the respective candidates. McCaskill’s features real Missouri women worried about Akin’s legislative abilities and views because of his infamous “legitimate rape” comment in August, while Akin’s black-and-white commercial includes a shot of a family at the dinner tab, holding hands while saying grace, plus Akin’s own family portrait with his six children and eight grandchildren.


Sexual assault victim Diana Meyer of Liberty, Mo. speaks to a group of supporters for Sen. Claire McCaskill. (Claire McCaskill campaign photo)

McCaskill’s campaign hosted events for “Women with Claire” in Kansas City and St. Louis where the new television commercial, called “Real Words–Scary,” was previewed:

Woman 1: Todd Akin is scary.

Woman 2: His statement about “legitimate rape,” is beyond the pale.

Akin: If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. 

Woman 3: He has no idea how it even works and he wants to legislate about it?

Woman 4: I worry about the misinformation he evidently believes.

Woman 1: I am afraid of what he’ll do in Congress.

Woman 5: All women in Missouri need to think what happens to their rights.

At the Kansas City event, I met Diana Meyer, the sexual assault victim from Liberty, Mo. featured in an earlier series of McCaskill’s ads. “At the end of the day, who I would trust to make the right decision to protect me is painfully evident,” she told me..” Meyer has crossed party lines to appear in the commercial and to speak out in support of McCaskill.

“Don’t boo me out of the room,” Meyer told the crowd when she admitted she was a Republican. “This matter goes beyond party lines, beyond gender.” It deals with “individual and personal freedoms.”

Freedom has been a buzzword of Akin’s campaign, but his new commercial targeted to women focuses on the family. Akin’s ad appeared on television Saturday (I actually saw it while watching the local news). His campaign has been strapped for cash since his “legitimate rape” remark in August when the Republican National Senatorial Committee pulled millions of advertising dollars and big-name Republicans withdrew their support. The Associated Press reported that Akin’s campaign, in an appeal to donors, said McCaskill had outspent Akin 10 to 1.

Akin’s black-and-white ad “Jobs and Paychecks” has a nostalgic feel with a voice-over narration:

The blessings of a good job and a good paycheck can be seen in the joy of every brother, sister, parent, child. Because a strong economy means stronger families. Married 37 years, the father of six, Todd Akin puts our families first in everything he does. That’s why he has a plan to create jobs by cutting taxes, reducing regulations and empowering small business. Better jobs, stronger families. 

 Akin has two other commercials coming out: One’s an endorsement from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee calling Akin “as strong as steel” and the other attacks McCaskill’s husband, businessman Joseph Shepard. The ad almost looks like security camera footage but is actually a reenactment; the narrator claims that Shepard cut deals in the U.S. Senate dining room.

The claims were made by a former employee of Shepard’s businesses, Craig Woods, who admitted he had never been in the Senate dining room and was not present when the alleged deals were made. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Woods served prison time for stealing $330,000 over a 10-year period from McCall Pattern Co. and for stealing $438,420 from Kellwood Co., a Chesterfield, Mo. clothing manufacturer, in the 1990s.

The “Political Fix” columnist, Nick Pistor, wrote, “The claim about a dining room meeting did not come from an eyewitness account and lacks direct evidence.”

“This is a desperate, 11th hour attack from a failing campaign,” McCaskill spokesman Caitlin Legacki said. “It’s bad enough that Todd Akin would attack Claire’s family, it’s worse that he is now basing his entire campaign on a series of lies. Todd Akin’s attacks have been proven false and he knows it.”

McCaskill’s not in a position to fight back; she suspended her campaign activities last week to rush to the bedside of her ailing mother, who’s in intensive care in a St. Louis hospital. 
 
It may be up to Missouri’s women to cast the deciding votes on who will represent the state for the next six years in the U.S. Senate. That thrills my daughter, who’s voting for the first time for president and who pointed out that women have had the vote for less than a century.
 
Women have come a long way; let’s not lose the progress that’s been made. As the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader, said in its endorsement for McCaskill: “While McCaskill has been a role model and advocate for women’s rights, Congressman Akin would be a throwback to attitudes that prevailed decades ago. And it’s not just for his ignorant remarks on women being able to avoid pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape.” The Republican candidate’s views on a host of other issues — Social Security, student loans, school lunches and even the Federal Reserve — put him well outside the mainstream.”
 

Diana Reese is a freelance journalist in Kansas City and a former editor of Missouri Life magazine. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.
 
 
Diana Reese is a journalist in Overland Park, Kan. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.
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Delia Lloyd · October 29, 2012