Sen. McCaskill raises $5.8M, expands lead

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) raised $5.8 million in the last quarter, and two new polls show her either widening or maintaining her lead in the Missouri Senate race.

But one poll reveals that voters in that state would prefer a Republican majority in the Senate, indicating McCaskill could still be vulnerable in a state where President Obama is little-liked.

According to the poll from Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, McCaskill leads Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) by six percent, with 46 percent support to Akin's 40 percent. That's a drop for Akin of four points support, and a one-point increase for McCaskill, since the last PPP poll in August.

A separate poll, from conservative firm Rasmussen, gives McCaskill 51 percent support to Akin's 45 percent support, the same six-percentage-point lead she posted in the same poll in early September, and an increase of five percent support for McCaskill and two percent support for Akin.

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The PPP poll indicates that the drop in support for Akin was siphoned off by libertarian candidate Jonathan Dine, who was not included in the last PPP poll but now takes 10 percent of Republicans away from Akin. He appeared in the candidates' debate last week, and the new poll seems to indicate he could appeal to those Missouri voters dissatisfied with McCaskill but uncomfortable with Akin.

McCaskill, too, managed to shore up 10 percent of Democrats since the last poll, putting her just over 90 percent support among Democrats in the state. Akin, on the other hand, lost three percent of his party's support.

That may indicate that the triage he engaged in over the past two months — issuing a number of apologetic ads and holding small, grassroots rallies across the state after his controversial "legitimate rape" comment — has been ineffective in repairing his image among Missouri voters, and the numbers spell that out.

Akin's favorability has barely improved from August, when the comments first broke: Thirty-three percent see him favorably, while 55 percent see him unfavorably. McCaskill, on the other hand has seen her favorability improve, putting her at a net negative 5 percent favorability, compared to August when she was at net negative 15 percent, according to the PPP poll.

However, Missouri Republicans may ultimately find reason enough to hold their noses and back their candidate come November, especially if the outside Republican money that only recently came back to the race manages to hurt McCaskill's image. Fifty percent of Missouri voters would prefer a Republican majority in the Senate, compared to 42 percent who would rather have Democrats in control, the PPP found.

That may be a hard pitch for Akin to make, however, considering he's been snubbed by the GOP establishment — and snubbed them right back — since his controversial comments broke. Akin launched a number of online fundraising efforts after he was abandoned by his party that asked supporters to pitch in to defeat the "party bosses."

It would be difficult for him to now completely shift gears and sell his win as key to a Senate majority, no matter how accurate that assessment is — especially with National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman John Cornyn (Texas) insisting that the race was "not winnable."

But NRSC executive director Rob Jesmer left the door cracked slightly wider in commenting on Akin's continued candidacy last week, indicating nothing is set in stone.

"As with every Republican Senate candidate, we hope Todd Akin wins in November and we will continue to monitor this race closely in the days ahead," he said in a statement to reporters.

And they may be compelled by the release of McCaskill's fundraising numbers for the 3rd quarter, which she issued via tweet.

"Numbers have now been crunched. Drumroll please...raised by our campaign for Q3....5.8 million!!! Thank you to thousands!" she tweeted.

McCaskill has been fundraising off of Akin's comments, that pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape" are rare because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," and the race has gotten national attention, likely a boost for the Democrat.

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