Sen. Claire McCaskill was in her downtown St. Louis hotel room at about 8:30 p.m. election night when she spotted early returns in two rural counties -- Henry and Bates.
Those early numbers had her performing way higher than her campaign's internal targets. At that moment, she knew she would have a good night.
"We're going to win," the senator remembered telling aides.
The aides "were getting irritated with me. They thought it was too early (to be declaring a win)."
But with 30 years of Missouri campaigns under her belt, McCaskill said she knew. Democrats typically don't perform well outstate. But McCaskill not only was doing well, she was winning and would go on to claim both counties.
In the end, her 55-39 percent triumph over Akin was "staggering," she said.
"If somebody had told me that we would have a larger (winning) margin than any statewide elected official, I would have said that's not going to happen," she told The Star today.
"I didn't see this margin of victory coming. I thought we would win. But I was really hoping that it wouldn't be a long night and that we'd know fairly early."
A poll for the Star about 10 days ago had McCaskill leading by 2 points. A GOP poll had her up 5 just a few days ago. McCaskill's final tracking poll had her up 5, a margin that had shrunk in recent days from low double-digits a couple of weeks back.
The magnitude of the win was due to the heavy turnout by women who comprised 56 percent of the Missouri electorate Tuesday night.
"That's very high for Missouri," she said.
That GOP leaders, including Mitt Romney, had asked Akin to withdraw after his rape remarks gave GOP moderates and independent voters permission to bail out and vote for the Democrat, she said.
She said she would leave it to others to decide if her win was more about voters backing her than vetoing Akin after his rape remarks.
McCaskill said the campaign's untold story was the get-out-the-vote effort her team pieced together that had volunteers contacting sporadic voters four times in the final 48 hours.
"Nobody has ever done it this big in Missouri before," she said.