McCaskill-Hawley Showdown Begins With Fight Over Debates

Candidates trade personal letters on debate rules following primary wins

Sen. Claire McCaskill / Getty Images

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The immediate message from both Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) and her Republican challenger, Attorney General Josh Hawley, after their primary wins Tuesday night was willingness to debate—but there is little agreement over what the series of debates will look like.

McCaskill and Hawley made their stances clear in a pair of personal letters to each other, with the incumbent McCaskill calling for four town-hall debates moderated by Missouri journalists and Hawley calling for a less conventional series of one-on-one debates with no moderators.

"Missouri voters should hear directly from us through four town hall style debates with questions from actual Missouri voters," McCaskill wrote to Hawley in a Tuesday night letter. "These debates should be in several media markets across the state and have us answering questions alongside each other."

Hawley, who had already set up a "Let's Debate" event for Wednesday, responded to McCaskill's letter with one of his own calling for debates "without the filter of journalists or outside advertisers."

Hawley praised McCaskill, writing that her "prowess as a debater is unquestioned in Missouri" and also pointing to her previous willingness to debate "anytime, anywhere, as often as possible."

Hawley said he wants to debate McCaskill on a "flatbed truck" that he's willing to take anywhere in the state.

"You relish in telling the press how much time you have spent in our state's smaller communities, like the one I grew up in, so let's go debate there, in front of county courthouses, over and over," Hawley wrote. "That's why our campaign has set-up a flatbed truck that we can take anywhere across the state.

"I'll take it to any courthouse—or if necessary to any airport tarmac to meet your plane," Hawley wrote.

The two supplemented their letters with a Twitter back-and-forth, with each sticking to their preferred debate parameters.

"How about some town hall debates … no teleprompter or scripts written by DC political consultants," McCaskill wrote Tuesday night.

Hawley responded by calling McCaskill's teleprompter attack "weak" and challenging her again to "one on one" debates.

Missouri's Senate battle between McCaskill and Hawley is sure to be one of the most closely watched in the country in the coming months. Both were victorious in Tuesday night primaries by wide margins, and McCaskill has treated Hawley as her general election opponent since he announced he'd be running. There were about 60,000 more votes cast in the Republican primary than the Democratic primary, though McCaskill received about 100,000 more votes than Hawley did.

McCaskill, a two-term incumbent, is considered to be one of the most vulnerable members in the Senate given the wide margin of President Donald Trump's victory there in 2016.

Brent Scher   Email Brent | Full Bio | RSS
Brent Scher is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He graduated from the University of Virginia, where he studied foreign affairs and politics.

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