U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill went on the attack against Republican Todd Akin on Thursday, saying that cutting federally backed student loans would be a punch to the gut that would forever hurt the country.
Appearing before about 100 students at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, McCaskill took aim at comments Akin made comparing federally backed student loans to "stage 3 cancer of socialism."
"Who would go to college under Todd Akin's plan?" McCaskill asked the audience.
"I think it would just be wealthy kids and a few athletes that are really talented ... and maybe a few academic rock stars if there were sufficient scholarship programs at various campuses," she answered.
McCaskill said ending the Pell grant program and federally supported student loans would mean hundreds of thousands of Missourians would miss out on college and a chance to better their lives.
"The only guaranteed ticket to the middle class is a college education. I am not aware that there is another guaranteed ticket," McCaskill said.
A spokesman for Akin's campaign said late Thursday that McCaskill was "once again trying to make this election about anything but her record as a Senator."
Ryan Hite said Akin has strongly supported educational choice at all levels.
"A government one-size-fits-all loan program will not provide the options and prices that our students need to find the best fit for their education. What is more important, and what McCaskill and (President Barack) Obama must answer for, is the job market that students will face upon their exiting school. Claire McCaskill has voted time and time again for job-killing, budget-busting policies that have destroyed the economy and the job market," Hite said.
McCaskill has spent this week touring the state, hammering away at Akin's views on student loans. Her comments Thursday reflected television ads she has been running against Akin as she tries to portray him as an extremist in the race for U.S. Senate.
"The notion that getting the federal government out of this business somehow allows us to continue to educate the workforce for a global economy is so wrongheaded, it's shocking," McCaskill said.
McCaskill has been using the student loan issue to contrast her with Akin, who already has been on the defensive in recent weeks because of a comment he made about a woman's ability to shut down a pregnancy in the event of "legitimate rape."
Akin later apologized for his remark and has been running ads saying that his six-second mistake pales in comparison to McCaskill's six years in office.
After her campaign stop, McCaskill said it is her job to demonstrate the many ways Akin is outside the political mainstream, including on the student loan issue.
"I am not aware of people who think that the federal government should quit backing student loans and completely get out of the business of helping kids get to college," she said.
"I am not aware of very many people in Congress that have that view. I am not aware of very many Missourians that have that view. As more and more people get familiar with Todd Akin's positions, they'll realize that it's much bigger than six seconds."