Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Missouri Governor Race

Race of the Day

Missouri Governor

August 15, 2012
83 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2008 Presidential Result: Red State (Midwest)

Outlook: Likely Democrat

In some ways, the Missouri Gubernatorial election this year mirrors the Presidential contest, as a first term Democrat chief executive is being challenged by a Republican, who made lots of money in business, and who is claiming that he can turn the economy around and create jobs. However, unlike the Presidential scene, both nationally and in Missouri, incumbent Governor Jay Nixon appears to be in a much stronger position to win reelection.

Having served several terms as his state's Attorney General, Nixon was elected Governor of this very competitive state in 2008 and now seeks to become the first person to hold that job to win reelection since 1996. Based on the competitiveness of the state and see-saw nature between the parties for the Governorship, Republicans at one point had pretty high hopes about the race. The heavy favorite to take on Nixon was Lt. Governor Peter Kinder. However, the statewide elected official ran into a slew of negative press in 2011, including revelations that the unmarried, but socially conservative Kinder might have been "friendly" with some strippers.

By November of last year, Kinder had reached the conclusion that he could not win the Governorship and his candidacy would only hurt the GOP. Instead, he decided to seek another term as Lt. Governor (and narrowly survived a primary challenge last week) and threw his support behind wealthy businessman Dave Spence. At least a couple other candidates, none of whom had ever been elected to anything, were already in the GOP field when Kinder dropped out, and Spence has now gone on to capture the nomination with nearly 60% of the primary vote. That seems to be perhaps a wider margin of victory for him than was anticipated.

Spence is planning to go strongly after Nixon in the general election on the issue of the economy and might be willing to put up some major personal financial resources to drive the message home. Many political analysts also believe that Missouri may be becoming more of a conservative state and with all that in mind, it is certainly possible that Spence can be seen as competitive.

However, it is a tough task for a first time candidate to take on a veteran politician, especially an incumbent, and it just might be that Spence, while credible, is not truly a top-tier hopeful. The state also had a very competitive Republican U.S. Senate primary on August 7, and the second and third place finishers there might have wished (and have others wishing as well), that they had instead ran for Governor, as they may have had the party turn to one of them to face Nixon and they be in a bit better shape now politically than Spence is as the GOP nominee.

While a Mason-Dixon poll from July showed a single digit race, with Nixon under 50 percent and many undecided, indicating that the race is far from over, a Survey USA poll out this week shows Nixon leading Spence by a 51-37 margin. That same poll also had interesting results elsewhere though, showing the Presidential race in the state tighter than other polls and conventional wisdom would indicate, but also showing Republicans with a larger lead in the Senate race than expected.

Future polls and developments in the campaign will be worth keeping an eye on, but the incumbent is favored for four more years in Missouri currently, and Republicans may be stuck with Nixon to kick around.

Spence campaign link:

2012 Gubernatorial races predicted thus far: 2 D, 1 R
Predicted Gubernatorial totals thus far: 14 D, 1 I, 27 R