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Sen. Claire McCaskill was the featured guest at the grand opening of the Franklin County Democratic Campaign headquarters in Union Saturday afternoon.

Arriving a few minutes after her scheduled 2:30 p.m. appearance, she didn’t disappoint the 40 or so enthusiastic supporters who packed the Democratic political headquarters located along Highway 50 at Jane Street.

McCaskill used the meeting before the friendly crowd to contrast the differences between her and Rep. Todd Akin. She touted her moderate views and her ability to work across the aisle to forge compromise which has been the centerpiece of her re-election bid while painting Akin as an extreme “fringe” conservative who is out of step with Missouri values.

McCaskill had plenty of material to work with in supporting this theme including Akin’s infamous comments on “legitimate rape” and, more recently, his comments that she wasn’t acting “ladylike.”

She also mentioned Akin missed 87 percent of the votes in Congress since July 1 of this year while pointing out that she has been successful in passing three important pieces of legislation since then. She also criticized Akin for cutting veterans’ benefits.

The best moment of the rally came when a little girl raised her hand and asked the senator “Is Todd Akin the bad guy and you are the good guy?” The crowd erupted in laughter. McCaskill responded deftly in terms the little girl could understand. She said her race with Akin was more like the little girl having a friend whom she disagreed with and who was trying to boss her around — it didn’t make the friend bad, just someone you didn’t see eye to eye with.

She then stressed the importance of winning Franklin County in her remarks. Calling it the “most populated swing county in the state,” McCaskill said voters here are sick of “red shirt” and “blue shirt” politics and want someone to represent them in Washington D.C. who can get the country moving in the right direction regardless of party affiliation.

McCaskill urged her supporters to get out the message because Franklin county was one of a handful of Missouri counties that were very important because of the “huge” number of swing or independent voters that could determine the election.

McCaskill is serious about winning Franklin County, that much is clear. She has made multiple visits in the county over the past several months. She even filmed footage for a campaign commercial at Joe’s Bakery in Washington.

Meanwhile, Akin has been mostly absent. Which is interesting given his support among the county’s Tea Party faithful — some of whom who were quick to defend him after his rape and abortion comments.

Akin may feel he doesn’t need to work the county because he has it sewed up by virtue of his party affiliation. The past few elections have seen the state and Franklin County shift to the right and to the GOP. In 2008, Missouri was the only swing state to vote for John McCain over Barack Obama,

While Akin’s missteps have made the race harder to predict, a McCaskill win in Franklin County would buck recent trends.

In 2006, McCaskill defeated Jim Talent statewide to win her U.S. Senate seat by a 49.58 percent to 47.31 percent margin. But Talent won Franklin County with 52.25 percent of the vote to McCaskill’s 44.69 percent.

The county spread was even worse for McCaskill in 2004 when McCaskill lost the governor’s race to Matt Blunt. Blunt claimed 56 percent of the Franklin County vote to McCaskill’s 42 percent.

Still, McCaskill seemed pretty determined Saturday in Union to reverse the tide. Recent polls have her leading Akin by anywhere from one to nine points. If she can make a strong showing here it would appear her re-election would be a lock.

EDI Mo Grapeshot 10-01-12