First-term Sen. Claire McCaskill has long been considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats facing re-election in November. She squeaked to victory in 2006, and her state, Missouri, has only grown more conservative since then. But McCaskill's camp is feeling optimistic this week, after Rep. Todd Akin, a six-term social conservative with some radical views, won a three-way GOP primary to become her challenger in the general election. Democrats spent more than $1.5 million indirectly promoting Akin with coded ads that were ostensibly digs at him, painting him as extreme (he once likened student loans to "the stage III cancer of socialism") in the hopes that conservative voters would find him appealing. Did Republicans just blow an easy chance to pick up one of the four seats they need to regain control of the Senate?

The GOP just gave Democrats new hope: Akin isn't nearly as easy a mark for Democrats as 2010 wackos Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell, "two GOP Senate nominees with scant political resumes and even less political sense," says Sean Sullivan at The Washington Post. Still, his "uncompromising brand of social conservatism" is bound to scare off some moderates. Polls showed Akin's rivals, businessman John Brunner and Sarah-Palin-endorsed Sarah Steelman, crushing McCaskill. Now it's a race she can win.
"Why Todd Akin's win gives Democrats hope in Missouri"

McCaskill is still the clear underdog: Democrats shouldn't get too confident, says Rick Moran at The American Thinker. To win, McCaskill has to run away from her ally President Obama, "who is very unpopular in the Show Me state." The trouble is, Akin will have "plenty of cash to tie the senator firmly" to the president. Akin's a strong candidate with a clear path to victory, so McCaskill's still "the Senate's most endangered Democrat."
"Akin in MO and Hoekstra in MI to face incumbents in Senate races"

McCaskill's in more trouble now than ever: "Note to Sen. Claire McCaskill, from the GOP: Be careful what you wish for," says Deirdre Shesgreen in the Springfield, Mo., News-Leader. Democrats might see Akin as "Christine O'Donnell with a voting record," but Republicans are betting that the state's voters will like the fact that he's "staunchly pro-life, has a top rating from the National Rifle Association, and is big on traditional family values." McCaskill will have a harder time casting Akin as "too conservative" than he will painting her as an "Obama liberal."
"Akin: McCaskill's easiest or toughest foe?"