JEFFERSON CITY – Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill and her Republican challenger on Friday staked out opposing positions on President Donald Trump's trade war, with McCaskill decrying it as harmful to the state's farmers and Josh Hawley standing by the president.
In speaking with members of the Missouri Farm Bureau, McCaskill sought to cast herself as an independent voice. Hawley stuck by the president while acknowledging that the escalating trade war is causing pain in a state driven by the agriculture industry.
The Farm Bureau later voted to endorse Hawley. Both candidates are vying for a hotly contested seat that could determine party control of the U.S. Senate.
McCaskill said enforcing current trade laws and banding together with allies to fight against countries such as China would be a better strategy than making a "calculated decision that agriculture can take the hit" in Trump's efforts to forge better trade deals.
"The damage that is being done to Missouri agriculture is inexcusable," McCaskill told Farm Bureau members. "This is not temporary pain; this is permanent damage to markets."
While visiting a farm earlier Friday in nearby Tebbetts, Missouri, McCaskill called Trump's proposed $12 billion in aid to help hurting farmers and ranchers "a Band-Aid on a broken leg."
Hawley said he has "advocated with the president and will continue to do so" to stand up for Missouri farmers. But he said the current situation is "unacceptable," citing retaliation against Trump's tariffs and trade markets that are closing to state farmers. He said the goal should be to open markets.
"If this is about getting better deals for our farmers and opening up markets and beginning to fight back in this trade war, I'm for that," Hawley said. "But we've got to actually push forward."
The Senate election is Nov. 6.