McCaskill Takes the A Plane

It’ll be a tough few days for Sen. Claire McCaskill. Last month the Missouri Democrat announced a 3-day trip in an RV for the “Veterans for Claire” tour. That trip took place from May 29 to May 31. The RV, prominently brandishing the senator’s name and logo in blue and yellow, was called “BigBlue” by the campaign. “We’re hitting the road!” her campaign’s liveblog announced.

Well, some of her staffers were hitting the road, but she, mostly, wasn’t. The Washington Free Beacon reported on Tuesday that McCaskill’s private plane, a single-engine turboprop valued at more than $1 million, took the same route as the RV. McCaskill, it appeared, didn’t travel very much on BigBlue. She traveled by plane, it seemed, the RV being her advance team’s transportation. The bus made the senator seem less like a wealthy politico and more like an ordinary middle-class citizen; only she usually wasn’t on it.

The Beacon wasn’t able to confirm that McCaskill actually took the plane rather than the bus for some or all of those trips, but she confirmed it to Politico. “I added some stops with the use of the plane, but I was on the RV so much that the broken drawer drove me crazy,” she said. “I even lost an iPad around a corner on the RV.”

Still, the senator doesn’t deny that she took her private plane, not the campaign RV, for most of those jaunts. She was on the RV just long enough, it seems, to be annoyed by a broken drawer (?) and to lose an iPad (??).

Her opponent, state attorney general Josh Hawley, has seized on the senator’s use of a plane as evidence that she’s out of touch. Fair enough, but we assume U.S. senators have easy access to chartered flights. They have office budgets and personal wealth and campaign accounts fully capable of paying for air travel. What’s off-putting isn’t the plane but the hypocrisy: pretending to ride around on a bus with the common folk when you’re hopping from stop to stop on your private plane.

For our part, we suspect the average campaign bus usually doesn’t contain the person whose name it advertises. Certainly the ones we’ve witnessed darting around Iowa and New Hampshire every four years are mostly bereft of their candidates, who were instead jetting between fundraisers around the country and flying in to join their aides at strategic moments. The campaign bus is a perfect metaphor for the modern consultant-driven campaign—colorful and all-American on the outside, empty on the inside.

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