Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Race of the Day- Missouri U.S. Senate

75 Days Until Election Day

Status: Republican Incumbent
2012 Presidential Result: Red State (Midwest)

Outlook: Leans Republican

Missouri has seen its fair share of close Senate races, that have received much national hype thus far this century. Considering though that the state is seen as having become more Republican leaning in recent years, it might come as a surprise to some that this year's race might become a true battleground. I do not think it is quite at that point yet, but it is hard to deny that Democrats have taken advantages of GOP problems to be more competitive here than they otherwise would. If this seat were to fall away from Republicans, it would signify a horrible night, and a definite loss of Senate control, probably with some seats to spare.

While Republican incumbent Roy Blunt, is currently a freshman Senator, has been around politics in the Show Me State for generations. The 66 year old Blunt first sought statewide office back in 1980, and won a different constitutional office four years later. After a loss in a Gubernatorial primary, he left politics briefly, but in 1996, resurfaced by taking a seat in the U.S. House. He quickly rose up the ranks of the GOP leadership, and was even acting House Majority Leader for a time. However, he lost the chance to take over that job permanently, when the Conference selected John Boehner instead. Blunt went back to being the Republican Whip, but his chances to advance further seemed to go away. Around the same time though, Blunt was actually the father of his state's Governor, as Matt Blunt served in the job his father failed to win, for four years, before the 37 year old Governor declined to seek reelection amid political troubles.

At this point in his life and political career, many in Roy Blunt's position would be thinking about retirement, but in 2010, the former number two House Republican and ex-First Father of Missouri ran for the U.S. Senate. It was a good year for Republicans, and Blunt won fairly handily over a scion of an influential Missouri Democrat family.

Blunt seems to have taken to life in the Senate and is seeking a second term. In an August primary, he won renomination easily, but still over a quarter of Missouri Republicans voted for someone else, with the field of others led by a Tea Party activist. Clearly, not all conservatives are enamored with Blunt, but he has still been considered the favorite for a second term.

Democrats have put up a pretty competent candidate though in Secretary of State Jason Kander, who holds a job that both Blunts held when they were about the same age as the 35 year old Democrat. Kander's biography is bolstered by his enlisting in the Army after 9/11, and then after becoming an attorney, volunteering for service in Afghanistan. Like Blunt, he easily won the 2016 Senate primary, but over 30 percent of the opposite vote was spread out, led by a Black Lives Matter activist candidate, signifying there are pockets of anger against the establishment of both parties currently in Missouri.

Polls have shown Blunt leading Kander, but not by overwhelming margins. Many political analysts are calling this a race to watch. Kander is believed to have tremendous upside as a candidate and Blunt can be painted by some as a typical career politician. Indeed, if not for Donald Trump leading the national GOP ticket, Blunt would probably be more secure. The Senator has had to walk a fine line and at times has given mixed messages about his level of support for Trump. If a true national tide against Republicans develops, beyond the Presidential result, Blunt might have a lot to worry about.

My hunch though is that Missouri is now conservative enough and Blunt will be well-funded enough to weather a competitive race. I think the incumbent will spend money to define Kander as a reliable liberal vote and to tie him to Hillary Clinton and national Democrats.  Blunt will have to take steps though to differentiate himself with Trump, even if the Republican outsider might ultimately beat Hillary Clinton there.

Blunt campaign link:

Senate races predicted thus far:
6 D (4 Safe, 1 Likely, 1 Leans)
13 R (4 Safe, 5 Likely, 3 Leans, 1 Tossup)

 Overall predicted thus far: 42 D, 43 R


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