McCaskill Says No to Run for Missouri Governor

McCaskill Says No to Run for Missouri Governor
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Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill will not run for governor in 2016, opting to stay in the U.S. Senate and likely run for a third term in 2018.

McCaskill is one of a handful of remaining Senate Democrats from conservative states after the party’s midterm election losses. Like others grappling with life in the minority and the prospect of more attractive opportunities back home, the two-term senator had signaled an interest in running for governor. McCaskill has also become increasingly involved in state elections.

Ultimately, she decided she could have more of an impact in Washington, citing seniority and a niche to fill in holding down a shrinking middle.

“It’s a firm no,” she told KCUR radio. “I look at the makeup of the current U.S. Senate and I see what might be possible in terms of me helping forge some of those compromises, and at the end of the day the work is too important, the job is too rewarding and too fulfilling.”

McCaskill’s decision is good news for Democrats, both in the short and long term. A gubernatorial bid by the Missouri senator would have sent a warning sign to Democrats hoping to regain seats in 2016 and hold on to the few remaining conservative states they have left. Sen. Joe Manchin, a former West Virginia governor, has also hinted at a return to his home state. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota is also mentioned as a possible gubernatorial contender.

McCaskill said it was “very likely” she would run for re-election in four years, and would start raising money for that campaign this year. She also threw her support behind Attorney General Chris Koster in his gubernatorial bid.

The Missouri senator will be important to watch over the next two years as she is one of a half-dozen Democrats that Republicans hope will help them pass legislation. McCaskill has supported the construction of the Keystone Pipeline, which the Senate will take up on Monday evening. But she also said disagreeable amendments might force her to change her mind on the legislation. Her votes over the next few years will also be key to her re-election chances.

An early supporter Barack Obama’s presidential run, McCaskill won what was expected to be an uphill battle for her seat in 2012 after her opponent, Todd Akin, made the “legitimate rape” gaffe heard around the political world. McCaskill sponsored ads in the GOP primary that year, hoping to prop up the least-electable candidate. Democrats have taken a similar approach in campaigns since. The 2018 election is far off, but Democrats’ chances in the state remain challenging. Obama lost Missouri, once considered a bellwether, in 2008 (albeit by a slim margin) and in 2012.

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at chueyburns@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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