ST. LOUIS - Incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill has successfully defended her seat against Republican challenger Todd Akin.
The Associated Press called the U.S. Senate race for McCaskill, who leads Akin with a 51-42 margin with 80 percent of precincts reporting.
The doors to McCaskill's watch party opened around 7 p.m. and flooded immediately with at least 50 supporters. By the time 8 p.m. rolled around hundreds of Claire's supporters filled the ballroom, gathered around a big screen television that was streaming CNN's election coverage.
In her victory speech at Chase Park Plaza in downtown St. Louis, McCaskill said Akin, "graciously called me, he graciously congratulated me, I recognize his years of public service and his patriotism."
Akin gave his concession speech at his Chesterfield watch party, using the time to thank his supporters.
"And I believe in my heart of hearts, that as long as we have the courage to stand for what's right and what's good even when its very difficult to do, this republic will continue to bring hope to the world and truly be that shining city on the sea," Akin said.
McCaskill also dedicated her victory to her late mother, Betty Anne McCaskill, who passed away only eight days before the election.
She was considered one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators in the country at the beginning of the election cycle.
"And they all said, 'it's over, it's done, it's too red, it's just too red. There is no way Claire McCaskill can survive,'" McCaskill said. "Well you know what happened? You proved them wrong."
McCaskill's status as one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators changed, however, after Akin made remarks about women's bodies preventing pregnancies in cases of “legitimate rape," which attracted national attention.
Throughout the campaign, McCaskill worked to portray herself as a "moderate" in the Senate, while she dubbed her opponent as "too extreme." McCaskill criticized Akin's calls to privatize Medicare and eliminate the federal school lunch program. Her campaign had to deal with its own criticisms when questions emerged about the senator's delayed tax payments on her private airplane and $40 million in stimulus money that went to companies affiliated with her husband, Joe Shephard.
Akin won the Republican primary against his two main rivals, Sarah Steelman and John Brunner. McCaskill meddled in the GOP primary running negative ads against all three major candidates, although the ad against Akin called him the "true conservative" in a possible attempt to appeal to conservative voters.
The St. Louis congressman made national headlines in August with his comments on "legitimate rape." His controversial comments severely decreased his approval rating among his GOP supporters as he continued to campaign for the Republican slot in the Missouri Senate race. Many groups from the Republican party pulled support for his campaign after his comments gained widespread attention
Akin was urged by presidential candidate Mitt Romney to abandon the race for the Senate seat shortly after his comments. Many conservative groups pulled funding for Akin, including Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, which pulled funding and advertisements from Missouri.
Big names in the GOP that did not urge Akin to drop out of the race included Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. While Santorum simply stated his support for Akin, both Gingrich and Huckabee campaigned on the St. Louis congressman's behalf, appearing at Akin's campaign rallies and political ads.Though Akin's campaign was plagued by his controversial remarks, the McCaskill campaign still raised and spent a considerable amount more than Akin's. McCaskill raised a little over $16 million, and spent close to all of it. Akin, however, only raised and spent about $4.5 million in contributions.
Before Akin's comments on "legitimate rape," polls showed him to be ahead of McCaskill. After his remarks, McCaskill gained a lead, though the race was still close.
In many of McCaskill's recent ads, she used Akin's words against him. One ad featured sexual assault victims speaking on why Akin should not be voted into office, though since then Akin has released his own ad featuring rape victims in support of him. McCaskill has also released ads calling Akin "scary" and including clips of Mitt Romney when he said Akin should drop out of the race shortly after Akin's controversial remark.
Akin also tried to tie the incumbent to unpopular policies of President Barack Obama including the Affordable Care Act and the 2009 economic stimulus.
Throughout the campaign, McCaskill said she will work to protect tax cuts for working families and small businesses. She opposes the privatization of Social Security and Medicare. McCaskill supports a ban on earmarks, unlike Akin who supports using the practice.
McCaskill supported Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008 and supported his health care law and economic stimulus package. McCaskill votes in favor of many women's issues, including the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009 and the Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act in 2012. She typically votes pro-choice. Another goal of McCaskill's is to make college more affordable and create student loan reform.
McCaskill disagreed with President Obama by voting in support of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
McCaskill served on in the state House of Representatives from 1983-1989. She then served as the Jackson County Prosecutor from 1993-1998. In 1999 she began her work as the state Auditor of Missouri and held the position until 2007. In 2006 she became the first woman from Missouri elected to the U.S. Senate when she defeated Republican incumbent Jim Talent, but not the first to serve. Jean Carnahan served from 2001 until 2003 after her husband died during his campaign for office. McCaskill ran for governor of Missouri in 2004 but narrowly lost to Matt Blunt.