Republican Josh Hawley has defeated Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill in the Missouri Senate race, ending any chance that Democrats will win a Senate majority. With the earlier defeats of Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota and Joe Donnelly in Indiana, the apparent defeat of Bill Nelson in Florida, and races in Arizona and Nevada still outstanding, Republicans could emerge from the midterms with a majority of 55 or 56 Senate seats.
McCaskill conceded after 83 percent of precincts had been reported. The Associated Press called the race for Hawley, who currently leads McCaskill by about 150,000 votes, 51.8 percent to 45.1 percent.
This race in one of the country’s most important Senate elections wasn't all that close in the end. It's possible that McCaskill's fate was sealed after she voted against the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Hawley is Missouri's current attorney general and is known to have ultra-conservative social views. The 38-year-old Republican, a former Supreme Court clerk, has become a rising star on the right and is a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump agenda.
Trump has reciprocated Hawley’s affection on multiple occasions. Earlier on Tuesday, the president took address an unsubstantiated rumor that Hawley had left Trump's campaign rally in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, early the previous evening.
“There is a rumor, put out by the Democrats, that Josh Hawley of Missouri left the Arena last night early,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “It is Fake News. He met me at the plane when I arrived, spoke at the great Rally, & stayed to the very end. In fact, I said goodbye to him and left before he did. Deception!”
According to a McClatchy report, Hawley became attracted to conservative causes while an undergraduate at Stanford, where he frequently debated his left-leaning peers. That article further explained that Hawley’s biggest challenge during this election was to distance himself from the scandal surrounding former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens:
As the state’s chief prosecutor, Hawley’s office found evidence of felony wrongdoing in Greitens’ use of a charity donor list for his campaign. Then, in April, Hawley called on the governor to resign after a Missouri House investigative commission concluded that the governor had bound and slapped a hairdresser with whom he was having an affair, and took a nude photo of her to blackmail her. Greitens resisted initially before resigning in May.
Hawley’s campaign focused on associating McCaskill with a “liberal agenda,” insisting in attack ads that she was “just like Hillary.” For her part, McCaskill depicted herself as tough on border security and refrained from criticizing Trump, who won more than 56 percent of the vote in Missouri two years ago.