"I've had a chance to travel for 18 months, and I've got a pretty good sense of where people are," Akin said. "My views are pretty much in sync with the voters of this state, and what's more, I've opposed the failed record and the failed policies which have given us the unemployment, the lack of jobs, and other miscellaneous problems such as gasoline prices doubling."
It's clear if Akin has rebounded in popularity since his rape comment since no pollsters deemed reliable by ABC News have polled potential voters in Missouri.
On Wednesday the Wall Street Journal reported that Akin has found a comfort zone in the socially conservative, largely Evangelical base he enjoyed before those comments. His campaign told ABC News in September that crowds were greeting him warmly, not even asking him about "legitimate rape" or why he said it. He has acknowledged the controversy in a TV ad, saying directly to camera, "My six-second mistake is well known, but Claire McCaskill's six-year record is something you should know ... "
On Thursday night, Akin appeared comfortable answering the obliquely phrased question before a larger audience, making the same argument he has for months: That Missouri voters agree with him on big issues like health care, the stimulus, and dissatisfaction with the economy under President Obama.
SAME OLD PLAYBOOK
Much of Thursday's debate followed a familiar theme: Akin condemning McCaskill's votes for big Democratic bills and reminding voters that she received a bit of stimulus money herself.
"She transferred $39 million to her home business," Akin said, repeating a claim made by his campaign earlier this month. "She cut funding for vets and teachers, but managed to get a million dollars for her home business."
McCaskill's husband's real estate partnership benefited from low-income housing rent assistance funded by the stimulus bill through USDA or the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Associated Press has reported. McCaskill's campaign has said that her husband's partnership was owed money under preexisting contracts funded by stimulus provisions to fill budget gaps at HUD, and that a small fraction of that money made it into his bank account.
The candidates hit each other on Medicare, replaying the presidential-race dispute over the Affordable Care Act's $716 billion in spending reductions and the Ryan budget's gradual voucherization.
McCaskill boasted her moderate credentials throughout, hitting Akin on his erstwhile support for earmarks; name-checking conservative Sen. Jim DeMint, with whom she joined to ban them in the Senate; and distancing herself from President Obama.
"I was disappointed when the president wouldn't support my spending cap. He was disappointed when I wouldn't go along with cap and trade. I was disappointed when he refused to quickly approve the Keystone Pipeline," McCaskill said. "For six solid years, I've been smack-dab in the middle."
An early supporter of Obama over then-senator Hillary Clinton in 2008, McCaskill has paid a price on the campaign trail in 2012, as Akin has reminded voters of her endorsement. Obama is expected to lose Missouri handily to Mitt Romney.
BASEBALL FANS DEFINITELY DID NOT WATCH
The 7 p.m. debate began as Game 4 of MLB's National League Championship Series was starting 10 miles away at Busch Stadium, where the St. Louis Cardinals played at home against the San Francisco Giants.
This meant that any baseball fans in the St. Louis area all but certainly skipped this debate. McCaskill acknowledged as much in her opening remarks.
"I know the audience isn't supposed to make noises, but if the audience could hold up fingers for the Cardinals score, that would be great," McCaskill said. "If you're watching this at home having taped it, I understand completely."
Hopefully, Missouri's undecided baseball fans all have DVR.