The nation is closely watching the U.S. Senate race in Missouri that pits Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill against her Republican challenger U.S. Rep. Todd Akin. The two will face off for their first debate today (Sept. 21) at 10:45 a.m. in Columbia, Mo.
McCaskill, 59, is seeking her second six-year term in the Senate after previously serving as state auditor. Akin, 65, is challenging McCaskill, rather than seek re-election to the 2nd Congressional District in St. Louis, to which he first won election in 2000.
The race shot into the national spotlight last month after Akin remarked to a local television reporter when speaking about abortion that with a “legitimate rape the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
He has since backed off the statement saying that he misspoke, but has rejected pleas from Republican leaders to drop out of the race. Republicans were hoping to unseat McCaskill in November, bringing them one step closer to holding a majority in the U.S. Senate.
Not all Republicans have shied away from supporting Akin. Former presidential candidate Newt Gingrich will be in Missouri on Sept. 24 at a fundraiser for Akin. The $500-a-plate luncheon will be held at Trattoria Branica restaurant in Kirkwood. The invitation-only event is expected to be a small gathering of about 100 people.
“I think Todd Akin was the choice of the people in Missouri and Todd Akin has publicly apologized,” Gingrich recently told ABC News. “I just think people ought to be a little cautious about saying the voters of Missouri don’t count.”
Mike Huckabee has also defended Akin. But a number of Republican supporters have withheld funds for his campaign. As a result, Akin is being outspent 10 to 1. While Akins has had relatively few ads on television, McCaskill’s campaign is supposedly spending $500,000 per week on broadcast and cable ads.
Even U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the Republican Party’s up-and-coming stars, slipped into the St. Louis area earlier this week to raise funds for GOP Missouri Attorney General candidate Ed Martin. It may be that Rubio didn’t want to draw even more attention to the Akin issue by announcing his visit. Martin is challenging Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster.
McCaskill and Akin will square off next in a live debate on NewsChannel 5. KSDK, the St. Louis Business Journal and KWMU – St. Louis Public Radio will host the debate, sponsored by the Clayton Chamber of Commerce. The debate will take place on Oct. 18 from 7 to 8 p.m. at Clayton High School.