Morning Digest: GOP boy wonder Josh Hawley joins Missouri Senate race

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Leading Off

MO-Sen: On Tuesday, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley announced that he would seek the GOP nomination to challenge Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.

Hawley seems to have already emerged as a rare candidate who has the love of the GOP’s many warring factions. Hawley has reportedly been the preferred recruit of the NRSC for months, while their frequent antagonists at the anti-tax Club for Growth announced back in August that they’d already raised $10 million to support him. And while the white supremacist site Breitbart has instinctively targeted plenty of allies of the GOP establishment, they’ve given Hawley fawning coverage. Several prominent state Republicans, including ex-Sen. John Danforth, have also been

for Hawley to run for months.

Hawley may not have the GOP primary to himself, though. Two state representatives, Marsha Haefner and Paul Curtman, have formed exploratory committees, and don’t seem interested in deferring to him. Rep. Ann Wagner, whom Hawley seems to have dissuaded from running herself, sounds interested in supporting an alternative to the attorney general.

Hawley only won elected office for the first time last year, when he led the GOP’s statewide ticket and won the attorney general race 58.5-41.5. As we’ve noted before, Hawley has based much of his conservative appeal on his claim that he was deeply involved in winning the Hobby Lobby case that allowed employers to refuse to provide contraceptive coverage if doing so violated the company’s “sincerely held religious beliefs.” In reality, Hawley didn’t get anywhere near oral arguments before the Supreme Court and was the last attorney listed on the plaintiffs’ brief, but conservative voters may just not care.

McCaskill does have one ready-made line of attack against Hawley. During his successful campaign, Hawley ran ads that showed politicians climbing latter’s to argue that he was different and wasn’t just looking for a new office to springboard himself to bigger things. We’ll see if voters actually care that Hawley is already looking for a promotion after less than a year on the job.

No matter what, McCaskill will have a tough race on her hands. While Missouri used to be one of the swingiest of swing states, it’s made a very hard right turn in recent years. Romney won 54-44 here, and Trump carried the state 56-38. Even if Trump continues to poll poorly nationwide next fall, Missouri may be the type of place he might remain an asset to the GOP. McCaskill herself is a very tough campaigner who famously won re-election by helping her preferred opponent, then-Rep. Todd Akin, win a three-way GOP primary, but Hawley may be too strong to be dispatched that way.

Still, if McCaskill loses, it won’t be without a tough fight. Hawley himself has only been through one campaign, and we’ll see soon enough if his Chosen One image can survive a real battle. While Republicans in the state and nationwide have been drooling over Hawley all cycle, one unnamed Republican strategist mused in July that he’s “never had to prove himself” but rather has “this golden-boy glow from afar.” One way or another, Hawley will get the chance to demonstrate if he’s worthy of the hype.

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