Claire McCaskill has gone from an almost sure bet to lose her re-election campaign to being re-elected to another six years in the U.S. Senate.
U.S. Rep. Todd Akin conceded to McCaskill in a private telephone conversation and then spoke to supporters about 9:45 p.m. With just a few precincts yet to be counted, McCaskill had almost 1.5 million votes for 55 percent to Akin's nearly 1.1 million votes for 39 percent.
A triumphant McCaskill took the stage just after 10 p.m. to thank supporters. She said the chattering class in Washington had written her off.
"'It's just too red. There is no way that Claire McCaskill can survive,'" McCaskill said. "You know what happened? You proved them wrong. With a stubborn determination and tenacity and refusal to give up, we showed the country that Missouri is made of."
After thanking her supporters, she singled out her mother, Betty Anne McCaskill, who died Oct. 29.
"Mom, this one is for you!" she said to thunderous applause."Guess what mom? I think we finally won rural Missouri, wahoo!"
Akin thanked his supporters in Missouri and throughout the country who risked their reputations to support him. He said Washington needs more courage "to stand for what it is right and what's good even when it's difficult to do."
He sounded again the themes of a smaller government.
"We believe that life liberty and the pursuit of happiness comes from almighty God, not an almighty government," he said.
McCaskill said Akin conceded in a gracious telephone call to her. She said to his supporters that she has a message to them: "I go to Washington first as a Missourian," and she said she does her best to represent entire state as a moderate who seeks compromise on the tough issues.
"This was an extraordinary campaign for so many reasons. The results are outstanding. Now I want all of you to own it. You deserve it. You did it," she said. "God bless you. Thank you. Six more years!"
At the conclusion of her remarks, the campaign blared Stevie Wonder's, Signed, Sealed Delivered, which President Barack Obama used often during his 2008 presidential campaign.
McCaskill's staunch support of Obama and her positions on other issues made her increasingly unpopular in Missouri. The Democrat failed to pay nearly $300,000 in taxes on a private plane owned by her family and had to pay the federal government almost $100,000 for trips on the plane that she had billed taxpayers for.
Most pundits saw Republicans picking off McCaskill and believed that would allow the Republicans to take control of the U.S. Senate.
McCaskill's seemingly improbable win was all because of a few words that Akin said in August after he won a hotly contested GOP primary campaign.
McCaskill bet on Akin as the most extreme of the three Republican candidates and the one with the most propensity to say controversial remarks. She and national Democrats helped fund advertisements in an effort to lead Akin to victory.
The early rewards came in mid-August when Akin said he opposed federal funding for school lunches. He said education is a state responsibility and if providing meals is important then state and local governments should do so.
But nothing could have prepared either side for the political tsunami when Akin did an interview in mid-August with KTVI-TV in St. Louis. The interviewer asked Akin if he would support abortions for women who have been raped.
"From what I understand from doctors, that's really rare," Akin said of a rape victim's chances of becoming pregnant. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
The interviewer didn't ask any probing follow-up questions. But once the interview aired on a Sunday morning, Democrats seized on it. "Legitimate rape" was trending worldwide on Twitter by that Sunday night, and Facebook lit up with comments from outraged women.
Akin apologized, saying he misspoke.
"I made a couple of mistakes here that were just wrong," he said during one of several interviews Monday. "I need to apologize for this."
But the damage was done. Akin was uninvited from his party's national convention. Republicans from GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney on down called on Akin to withdraw from the race.
In a tersely worded statement, the National Republican Senatorial Campaign indicated that Akin should drop out of the race for the good of the party.
"It should not be lost on anyone that some of the only voices not calling for Congressman Akin to do the right thing and step aside are Claire McCaskill and the leaders of the pro-abortion movement," the statement reads. "Sen. McCaskill knows that the only way she wins re-election is if Todd Akin is her opponent in November."
Republican strategist Mary Matalin said it was a done deal that Akin would bow out of the race and run for his congressional seat again and Ann Wagner, the Republican candidate for his seat, would be the GOP nominee for the Senate.
But Missouri Republicans could not coalesce around a single candidate. And Akin and his family refused to bow to demands that he step aside. He said Missouri voters had chosen him as his party's nominee and Show-Me State voters are forgiving and understanding.
Akin has said McCaskill is no moderate. Instead, he said she is a corrupt politician who is beholden to Obama and special interests.
"Corrupt Claire," one ad said. "The moment her hand came off the Bible, it went into our pockets."
McCaskill and her supporters have been relentless in depicting Akin as an anti-woman radical who would set women's rights back decades. One ad highlighted a Republican voter who was raped, saying it's wrong that Akin would criminalize those seeking emergency birth control after a rape.
An ad in the closing days highlighted Romney saying about Akin, "What he said was indefensible, was wrong, it was offensive, and he should step out of the race."
Both candidates have talked veterans benefits, Social Security, Medicare, farming and education. But those issues have been overshadowed once Akin said those two now infamous words.
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