Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill's hoarse voice Saturday night was barely stronger than a whisper, but she was still able to convey a key point:
Her three GOP challengers are out of touch with Missouri.
"I've got to tell you the truth," McCaskill said at Truman Days, the annual gala of the Jackson County Democratic Committee. "You know what these three people do: They make John Ashcroft look like a liberal.
"They are fighting to be the Tea Party candidate."
Ashcroft, of course, is the former two-term Missouri governor and U.S. senator who made a living on the right side of the political spectrum.
"That's the lineup, folks. It's pretty extreme," McCaskill said.
The Democrat said she can't be convinced that a majority of Missourians are ready to "turn off the lights of the federal government" and cut Social Security or wipe out Pell Grants, which help poor students pay for college.
She said all three Republicans favor returning student loan programs back to the private sector, an idea McCaskill ridiculed as ridiculous because private banks are reluctant to loan money to high school graduates who don't have regular jobs.
"Talk about setting us back," McCaskill said. "We have to invest in our kids."
She spotlighted the federal auto company bailout, noting that Ford and GM are soaring these days in the wake of that aid. None of her opponents backed that bailout, McCaskill said.
"Don't ever bet against America," she said. "It was a good investment."
She also bemoaned the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United case that allows for unlimited -- and anonymous -- donations to certain non-profit groups. Those groups have already spent millions on TV ads criticizing the senator.
The ruling will "go down in history as one of the worst Supreme Court decisions," McCaskill said to applause.
"If Missourians find out who's paying for these ads, I think they'd be proud of me."
Her point: The sponsors are out to help themselves and aren't looking out for the best interests of Missourians.
The silver lining? "Advertisements don't elect people. People do."
Other banquet highlights:
** Democrats announced that Steve Bough, the two-term county Democratic chair, is stepping down in August. The election for a successor will be in August or September.
** Congressman Emanuel Cleaver ripped off a trademark stemwinder extolling the virtues of Democrats and shaming Republicans for backing oil companies that he said banked tens of billions in profits last year. House Republicans backed a $4 billion subsidy for big oil just weeks ago, he said.
** Kansas City Mayor Sly James helped lead the crowd in a sing-a-long of "My Girl." Cleaver passed on an opportunity to sing "Lean on Me."