Sen. Claire McCaskill Reflects On Future Of Democratic Party
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
We are indeed. We're joined by Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat from Missouri. She's at the Javits Center in New York for tonight's Clinton campaign event. Senator McCaskill, thanks for joining us today.
CLAIRE MCCASKILL: Thank you for having me.
SIEGEL: Your state, Missouri, was one where in 2008, Barack Obama came very close to winning it. No one - the polls are still open there, but nobody has suggested that Hillary Clinton would win it this year. Why, at least in presidential politics - why is it redder than it was back in 2008? What's happened?
MCCASKILL: Well, for one thing, the presidential campaigns after that very narrow victory of 3,900 votes - .13 percent difference in 2008 - there was a decision made in '12 not to go to campaign in Missouri. So when you don't have an operation on the ground, when you're not working to get votes in a state, it makes a difference.
And so our state has drifted. But a lot of that drift is frankly because the presidential campaigns aren't competing there. We're still winning statewide races for Democrats, and I think we'll win a couple of them tonight. In fact I predict that we'll win a U.S. Senate race there that will allow a Democratic colleague to join me in the Senate.
SIEGEL: You think Jason Kander is going to defeat Blunt in the Senate race.
MCCASKILL: I do. I believe he will defeat Blunt.
SIEGEL: We're going to be looking a lot at the Upper Midwest where the Democratic Party has had a lot of trouble with white, working-class voters. You're the Midwest. Or at least that's one thing that Missouri is. What must the party do to reconnect with white, working-class voters and not face the same problem in future years?
MCCASKILL: Well, I think sometimes my party has tried to take a shortcut to white, working-class voters by simply being very supportive of labor unions. And labor unions obviously have had - have diminished over the last decade in terms of how many there are, how many members there are.
And we really have not focused on how we still reach those same people that want to have affordable college, that want to make sure that they have a comfortable retirement, that want to make sure that they can in fact afford health care and maybe take a vacation and have maternity leave. So we've got to really begin to do more to communicate directly to those voters because we are in fact their champions in the Congress.
SIEGEL: Just very briefly, if indeed Hillary Clinton wins tonight, how important will it be to you that a woman will have been elected president of the United States?
MCCASKILL: I think I miss my mother more tonight than I have since the day she died. I think women all over this country are missing their mothers and their grandmothers. She told me when I was a very young girl I could be anything I wanted to be and told me that people who ran for office were honorable people and encouraged me in my political career. And she would be on cloud nine tonight. So I miss her.
SIEGEL: Senator McCaskill, thanks for talking with us.
MCCASKILL: Thank you.
SIEGEL: That's Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri talking with us from New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.