Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who first picked up her seat for the Democrats in 2006, now has her first official challenger for 2012, with former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman announcing her run.
Steelman was previously elected Treasurer in 2004, then lost the 2008 Republican primary for governor, in which the party establishment had supported her opponent. She has reportedly been encouraged to run by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Steelman sounded some Tea Party-style notes in her announcement, saying in part that her campaign is about “stopping the Washington elites from making America more like a European country instead of recognizing that people still flock to America because they know they can build a better life for their families.”
Former Sen. Jim Talent, who has worked as a lobbyist since he was defeated by McCaskill in 2006, is also eyeing the race. Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder is also seen as a possible candidate.
Expect this one to be a top Senate race. Missouri is a perennial swing state, often having close results at the statewide level. On the other hand, it may be starting to trend more to the Republicans, even more than any national swing.
McCaskill defeated Talent by 50%-47% in 2006. Then in 2008, John McCain carried the state by less than one point over Barack Obama — the first time that Missouri had voted for the loser of a presidential election since Democrat Adlai Stevenson carried it against Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. In the 2010 Senate race, an open seat contest to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Kit Bond, Republican Roy Blunt defeated Democrat Robin Carnahan by the very strong margin of 54%-41%.