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Mo. Senate race one of stark contrasts

Missouri's U.S. Senate race is shaping up as one of stark contrasts -- and a dream matchup for both Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill and her newly minted Republican challenger, Rep. Todd Akin.

Within hours of Akin's winning the Republican primary, McCaskill was casting him as a conservative extremist who would jeopardize seniors' health care and retirement savings while putting college out of reach for all but the rich.

Akin countered by portraying McCaskill, one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents in the nation, as a budget-busting, tax-hiking, big-spending liberal.

The clash of ideals is welcomed by both candidates. In fact, McCaskill's ads highlighting Akin's conservative credentials helped persuade some people to vote for him in Tuesday's primary against self-financing businessman John Brunner and former Missouri Treasurer Sarah Steelman, who had been endorsed by Sarah Palin. Akin won 36 percent of the vote, compared with 30 percent for Brunner and 29 percent for Steelman.

McCaskill, who was unopposed in the Democratic primary, immediately began targeting Akin for the November general election by using his own words against him. She launched a website Wednesday featuring video clips in which Akin expresses opposition to federal student loans and the minimum wage, says he doesn't like the Social Security program and supports changes to Medicare that could include vouchers for people to buy insurance policies.

"Todd Akin is out of the mainstream," McCaskill said as she kicked off her campaign with a news conference at a Kansas City sheet metal fabricator. A sign touting her as "a senator on our side" was propped on a raised forklift.

Akin contends it is McCaskill who is out of touch -- and to the left -- of most Missourians. His prime example: McCaskill's support for President Barack Obama's health care law, which received a symbolic vote of disapproval when Missourians passed a 2010 ballot measure rejecting government mandates for people to have health insurance. Akin wants to repeal the federal health care law.

Akin also accuses McCaskill of voting "to bust the budget" by backing Obama's 2009 stimulus act and says she supports "job-killing red-tape regulation," although he doesn't go into a lot of specifics.

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