Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Race of the Day- Missouri Governor

76 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Open
2012 Presidential Result: Red State (Midwest)

Outlook: Leans Democrat

This is a race that I was going to say had a different outlook before I saw a polling result today. I was going to say it was a Tossup with a slight edge to the Republican, but based on a Monmouth University poll today showing a 51-40 lead for the Democrat nominee, I had to reconsider. Hopefully, from my perspective, that poll will turn out to be anomaly and the GOP contender will have a better chance. This does look like it should be an interesting contest between a former Republican turned Democrat politician in his early 50s and a former Democrat turned first time Republican candidate in his early 40s. Based on the biographies of both men, I have a hunch that the eventual next Governor of Missouri might see themselves as a potential President some day down the road.

The Show Me State, once among the closest of swing territory, has moved more towards Republicans in the past several years. Despite that though, Democrat Jay Nixon won the last two Gubernatorial elections. He is leaving office, with less than stellar popularity, in the wake of last year's riots in Ferguson among other things, and it looked like the GOP would stand a very good chance of flipping the office after eight years out of power.

Democrats have put up a credible candidate though in Attorney General Chris Koster, who holds views on matters such as guns, that make him more palatable to conservative and rural voters. He easily won the primary at the beginning of this month with nearly 79 percent of the vote. It was not much of a contest between Koster and his three primary opponents, but it was interesting that finishing third overall was the soon to be 90 year old Charles Wheeler, a former State Senator who was Mayor of Kansas City for most of the 1970s before becoming sort of a Missouri version of Harold Stassen. I had never heard of Wheeler.

The Republican primary for Governor was far more complex and would turn out to be extremely more competitive. Some candidates with legislative experience would eventually jump into the race and then get out, including the current GOP nominee for the separate office of Lt. Governor, but starting off the cycle last year, the top contenders were expected to be Catherine Hanaway, a former U.S. Attorney and State House Speaker and the recently reelected State Auditor Tom Schweich. Hanaway was the favorite of many conservatives, while Schweich was seen as potentially the most electable candidate Republicans could run.

Shockwaves were sent throughout Missouri political circles though last February when Schweich committed suicide at his home via a self-inflicted gun shot. Nobody might really know why the promising politician took such a drastic action (as his spokesman would also tragically do shortly after), but soon a reporter came forward saying that Schweich had been agitated and wanted to speak to him about a smear campaign being run against him by political opponents within the State GOP. Apparently, there was some sort of allegation that it was going to be said that the Episcopalian Schweich had Jewish heritage in his family background, something that he did not deny, and this was somehow going to hurt his chances in the Gubernatorial primary. Frankly, this story does not really make much sense to me, unless Schweich was somehow embarrassed by his family history or unwilling to state his own Christian beliefs.

Finger were pointed at the Missouri Republican Chairman and at the Hanaway campaign, but this is just a sad and confusing story all around. It did have the effect of making it very difficult for Hanaway, Schweich's chief opponent, to campaign for Governor, but she did press forward with a campaign and would eventually be joined by other contenders. John Brunner was a wealthy businessman, who nearly won a U.S. Senate nomination in 2012, with some establishment support, but ran for Governor as a Tea Party outsider. Third term Lt. Governor Peter Kinder would also enter the race. He was believed to have had the nomination for Governor for the taking in 2012, before dropping out after stories surfaced about the unmarried Kinder cavorting with strippers. He did manage to win another term for the number two spot in the state. The next year he would back out of a primary battle in a Congressional special election, but saw 2016 as his one chance to run for Governor. Finally there was Eric Greitens, a former Navy SEAL who would become a noted businessman and author. He had been recruited by Democrats to run for Congress in 2010, but passed on that race, and ultimately decided he was more comfortable as a Republican.

This four way primary was hotly contested and at times nasty, as attack ads ran on television and online. Candidates talked up their experience in office, their military backgrounds, and touted endorsements and geographical advantages. The end result saw all candidates get a substantial total, with Hanahan in last, with just under 20 percent, Kinder, just a few thousand votes ahead of that, but with the two outsiders taking the top two slots. Nonetheless, Greitens beat Brunner by nearly 10 percent and advanced to the general election, with just under 35 percent of the vote. I would not be best qualified to state why Greitens wound up being the strongest primary contender, but being a first time candidate and having the perception of "telling it like it is", probably helped. In many ways, Greitens base in the state probably mirrored that of Donald Trump, although Greitens certainly appears to be a more appealing person, with genuine beliefs and the ability to articulate them. Despite the appeal that Greitens had to many on the right, some social conservatives were wary of him from the start and actively tried to defeat him, just like many did to Trump.

The match up between Koster and Greitens sets up as a race between two potential rising stars in politics, but Greitens impressive biography may not be enough at this point to have him seen as someone with enough gravitas to be Governor. There is evidence that all the wounds of the primary have yet to heal, and some Republican leaning groups, such as the Missouri Farm Bureau have endorsed the Democrat Koster.

It will be worth watching this race progress, through debates, and other factors, and to see if Greitens is able to eventually unite more of the GOP behind him. If so, he may have a real chance but right now, the first general election polls are showing that Koster has the edge, although another one from early August had the race a virtual dead heat. If the Democrats find a way to win, Missouri Republicans may be left wondering once again why they nominated the candidate they did.

Greitens campaign link:


Governor races predicted thus far: 3D (1 Safe, 1 Leans, 1 Tossup) 0 R
Overall predicted thus far: 14 D, 27R


At 5:39 PM, Anonymous Sku said...

Corey, it is a pleasure to read your thorough, well written write-ups of these races (and the presidential). I'm always interested in hearing your perspective. Keep up the good work!

At 6:11 PM, Blogger Corey said...

Sku.. I remember that name! It's been a long time. Thank you very much for the nice words and for reading. I hope thing are well with you!


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