Missouri Rep. Graves calls Sen. McCaskill challenge 'a great opportunity'

One of Graves's qualifications for the job is experience as a sixth-generation farmer in northwestern Missouri. That could also be a plus if he decides to mount a bid for Senate. Rural ties go a long way in Missouri politics and two of Graves's potential GOP rivals, Steelman and former Sen. Jim Talent, could be seen as "city slickers" because of their urban roots. 

Steelman has already declared herself a candidate, but Talent hasn't yet indicated his intention to run.

Graves said their plans would influence his decision.

"Jim's a friend of mine; Sarah's a friend of mine. That absolutely factors into it," he said.

With the fight over repeal looming, Graves said healthcare would be a "huge" issue in 2012.

"The people of Missouri, as well as the country are very much against this bill," he said. "The next biggest issue is spending. It's just the out-of-control spending that goes along with this [healthcare] bill in particular."

Graves said the Tea Party movement will remain influential through the next campaign cycle.

"The Tea Party movement, it's been important in terms of getting the country back on track," he said. "Their main issue is spending and that's obviously something that's very important.

"Those ideas and those issues are always going to be alive, and I think it's important to keep it alive, and that movement has kept it alive," he said.

As a result, Graves said that the House GOP leadership must deliver cuts in government spending. "It has to happen," he said.


—This post was updated at 2:27 p.m.