Claire McCaskill, One of the Nation’s Most Vulnerable Democrats, Just Lost

Loyal Trump supporter Josh Hawley will take the Missouri senator’s seat.

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/ZUMA

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Republican Josh Hawley won in Missouri on Tuesday evening, beating out Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill in one of the nation’s tightest senate races.

The election represented more than the candidates’ popularity: It tested the notion that a moderate Democrat could maintain federal office in Trump country. Since McCaskill was voted into the Senate, in 2006, Missouri has turned increasingly red. President Donald Trump carried the vote by nearly 20 points in 2016, and he repeatedly returned to Missouri in recent months to campaign for Hawley. On Monday, the president wrapped up his whirlwind midterm campaigning tour in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, flanked by Fox News’ Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.

Hawley, the state’s 38-year-old attorney general, boasts a résumé enviable to any ambitious conservative: degrees from Stanford University and Yale Law School, where he was the head of the Federalist Society; a clerkship for Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts; an appointment as an associate professor at the University of Missouri Law School. Working at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (dubbed “God’s ACLU” by TIME magazine), he helped write the winning brief in the Hobby Lobby case, in which the Supreme Court allowed the chain store, owned by Evangelical Christians, to deny Obamacare-mandated contraceptive coverage to employees based on religious beliefs.

Hawley often mentions his allegiance to Trump, and his views—pro-life, anti-Obamacare—fall in line with conservative senators from red states. As attorney general, he signed on to a lawsuit with 19 other states that aims to dismantle the Afford­able Care Act. In recent weeks, he argued for repeal of the federal tax provision that prohibits religious organizations from endorsing politicians. 

With Hawley in office, Missouri has solidified its red-state status, and the Senate has lost one of its last remaining female moderates. McCaskill has held public office for virtually her entire career, rising in the ranks from state representative to county prosecutor to state auditor, and then to US senator in 2006. All the while, she made a name for herself as a pragmatic and tough politician, one who takes on evasive government agencies and greedy companies with equal parts vengeance and charm.

Along the campaign trail, Hawley portrayed McCaskill as a liberal elite who, he recently said, is “just like Hillary.” But as the campaign came to a close, McCaskill drew criticism for distancing herself from her Democratic colleagues in an aggressive attempt to appeal to Missouri’s Trump supporters. In a recent Fox News interview, she condemned “crazy Democrats” who confront Trump administration figures in public and talked about her history of clashing with Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Asked about the migrant caravan in the same interview, she said, “Stop it at the border. I think the president has to use every tool he has at his disposal and I’ll 100 percent back him up on that.”

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