Roy Moore-Shaped Shadow Creeps Over Missouri's Senate Race

click to enlarge Missouri Attorney General and U.S. Senate Candidate Josh Hawley. - SCREENSHOT VIA YOUTUBE
Missouri Attorney General and U.S. Senate Candidate Josh Hawley.
The fight over Claire McCaskill's U.S. Senate seat is already one of the most-anticipated races of the 2018 midterms, and, so far, her Republican opponents are stumbling out of the gates.

When it comes to money, McCaskill (D-Missouri) is rolling in it, to the tune of $11.8 million, according to her most recent campaign filings. Meanwhile, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, presumed to be McCaskill's most potent Republican challenger, is holding just $1.2 million. However, Hawley's campaign seems poised to benefit from the $2 million raised by a political action committee, or super PAC, called the Club for Growth Action Missouri.

The only stumbling block is that every cent of the $2 million in the PAC came from Chicago-area businessman Richard Uihlein, the same donor who in November was revealed to be the top donor to the political action committee backing failed U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore.

So far, the Missouri super PAC has made only $4,500 in contributions — all to Hawley. It's likely that much more money is on its way, and that could leave Hawley vulnerable to attacks similar to those leveled at Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, whose 2014 campaign accepted millions from Uihlein. (Eric Greitens' campaign also took in $360,000 from Uihlein during his run for governor.)

Indeed, on Wednesday, the Missouri Democratic Party jumped on the new campaign finance numbers, announcing, “Roy Moore’s Top Funder Bankrolls Josh Hawley SuperPAC.”

The specter of Roy Moore isn't just a problem for Hawley. Courtland Sykes, a Republican Senate hopeful whose campaign is indistinguishable from parody, actively stumped for Moore, traveling to Alabama during the election cycle's home stretch and making sure to take plenty of photos along the way.

Sykes went to remarkable lengths to position himself as among Moore's defenders even after accusations mounted that a 30-something Moore had pursued teen girls and sexually assaulted a 16-year-old and a 14-year-old. Just weeks before the election, Sykes' campaign released a 40-minute "documentary" that strung together multiple conspiracy theories to try to discount Moore's accusers. In the film, Sykes compared the women to prostitutes, called them "floozies" and mocked their physical appearances.

Even after the Alabama senate seat went to Doug Jones, the Sykes campaign — if that's what it is, and not some elaborate cosplay marathon engineered by the living ghost of Andy Kaufman — never backed down from its defense of Moore.

For McCaskill, her opponents' weaknesses must feel familiar. She managed to ride Todd Akin's infamous statement about "legitimate rape" to a Senate win in 2012, and she's now facing off against two Republicans with ties to Moore, a candidate whose toxicity became legendary the moment he lost to a Democrat in Alabama.

Not only that, but Hawley and Sykes seem to be tripping over themselves to give McCaskill new fundraising fodder. Hawley is presently getting hammered for a speech he made in December that blamed the sexual revolution for the rise in sex trafficking. Sykes' view of women's rights, meanwhile, seems to begin and end at his dinner plate.

We'd question how McCaskill keeps landing these hapless opponents, but we remain not fully convinced that either is an actual person and not just a cyborg she's invented to hold a safe seat. A guy who's floundered through barely a year as Missouri Attorney General and a guy who calls women "career-obsessed banshees" — and they both have ties to Roy Moore? She couldn't have written this better if it were fiction.

Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at [email protected]

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