Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Race of the Day- Missouri Governor

Missouri Governor

76 Days Until Election Day

Status: Republican Incumbent

2016 Presidential Result: Red State (Midwest)

Outlook: Leans Republican

The Show Me State was the only swing state to vote against Barack Obama in 2008, albeit just narrowly. Since then, it has moved more towards the Republican Party, and the GOP has won some big statewide victories. This year, polls are showing that the Presidential contest may be close. However, Donald Trump did win it by 18 points last time around. His margin may shrink by more than half and he would still win with room to spare. The Gubernatorial contest will share billing with the Presidential race and Democrats would like to believe that an upset could be in the offing. If so, it might be due to some pretty unique circumstances. For now, the Republican is ahead and could possibly win with gained momentum at the homestretch.

The 2016 cycle saw three politicians win statewide office on their first try.  Mike Parson, a farmer, and longtime elected official ran for and won the office of Lt. Governor by 11 points against the scion of the famous Carnahan family of Democrats. Parson had thought of running for Governor, but stayed out of what was a fairly spirited four way contest in which even the last place finisher received 20 percent of the vote. The winner was Eric Greitens, a young former Democrat who ran as a conservative and focused on his military record and outsider status. Even as late polling showed he might lose to a highly touted Democrat, he won, likely with the help of Trump's large victory by a 51-46 margin.

Greitens was looked up as a rising star in the GOP. He had an ambitious agenda but barely a year into his term, he was rocked by allegations of an extra-martial affair some years earlier and a particularly sordid claim of blackmail. The Governor admitted he had made mistakes in his private life but denied doing anything illegal. The newcomer did not have a lot of allies in his party in the state capital though. Information continued to drop out and in February of 2018, he was indicted on an invasion of privacy charge. An additional charge would come along regarding a charity list with a bunch of legal back and forth. The actual criminal charges would be dropped but state Republicans had their own investigation and looked poised to impeach Greitens. (Clearly they had a higher standard for conduct than Congressional Republicans.) At the end of May, Greitens reached a deal with prosecutors to resign as Governor if he would not be charged again. Since this time, he has gotten divorced from his second wife, began a book about his Jewish faith, and has threatened to run for office, including again for Governor in 2020 as an Independent. If this were to have happened, it would have complicated matters for Republicans, but it did not come to pass.

With the resignation of Greitens, who might have been thrown out of office had he not quit, the Governorship suddenly passed to the older and more stolid Mike Parson. Few expected much in the way of fireworks or that he would be particularly at risk if he sought a full term. The office of State Auditor is the only one elected in Missouri during the midterms. Three years earlier, the then 32 year old Nicole Galloway had been appointed to fill a vacancy in that post by the then Democrat Governor Jay Nixon. In 2018, she was able to do what not many Democrats have done recently in Missouri and won as statewide election by defeating a Republican opponent by nearly six percent. Now, as basically the last Democrat standing on a statewide basis, Galloway ran for the state's top job, was nominated overwhelmingly and is seeking to become the state's first woman Governor. If she loses, she will still have the job as Auditor and perhaps future political opportunities.

A gap of 27 years separates Parson and Galloway in age, but to look at them, it seems like it might be more like 37 years. There is also a wide ideological gap. Parson has recently come under criticism for his performance in dealing with the Covid 19 pademic in the state and pushing for re-openings. After recent protests and riots around the country, he also involved himself in the somewhat ludicrous case of a married couple who pointed guns at a crowd gathered around expensive homes in their neighborhood. This case, besides generating numerous internet memes became a political firestorm and the Governor said he would pardon the couple if they were convicted of wrongoing. The couple has since been charged criminally and the case remains very controversial as the McClosekey's will continue their 15 minutes of fame at next week's virtual Republican National Convention.

Parson seems to be embracing Trumpism in his state, having read the tea leaves from the 2016 campaign. while his Democrat opponent is calling for a "reset" on the policies being enacted and proposed in the state. There is no doubt that Missouri has moved to the right over the past generation, as the state's rural areas and small towns have gained in political power in relation to the rest of the state. A strong urban turnout though in St. Louis and Kansas City could make the race for Governor very competitive. Recent polls show the incumbent ahead by high single digits but many also feel that he is vulnerable the more that voters learn about his opponent. The key will probably be the traditionally Republican suburban areas, where like much of the rest of the country, seem to be souring on Trump's hold on the Republican Party, and those associated with it.

In some ways, Parson is an accidental Governor and may still be coming to terms with being the top political figure in the state. A quarter of the state's Republican primary voters chose someone other than Parson in this month's primary. His closest competition came from the woman who had lost two years earlier to Galloway for Auditor. In this race for Governor, Saundra McDowell ran as a staunch Trumpist.

The last Gubernatorial cycle though showed Republicans doing several points better than polls predicted and this polling discrepancy also showed up a bit in 2018 as a Republican beat an incumbent Democrat U.S. Senator, even as the GOP had a hard night nationwide. If Galloway were to somehow win, she will instantly became famous among political junkies around the country. The stats though still favor Parson keeping his job and the Republicans in power in Jefferson City.

Governor races predicted thus far: 
1 D (1 Likely)
2 R (1 Likely, 1 Lean)

Total with predictions thus far:

21 Democrats (20 holdovers, 1 Likely)
21 Republicans (19 holdovers, 1 Likely, 1 Lean)


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