Posts Tagged ‘ Jay Nixon ’

Missouri 2012 Elections Preview

Missouri is a swing state that has trended more Republican in recent years, but its politics are still very competitive. It has several key races coming up in 2012, and seeing as I am a Missouri resident, my blog will be following them. This is my first preview of Missouri’s 2012 races for Governor, US Senator and for Missouri’s second US Congressional seat.


Jay Nixon (D) is a first-term governor who won in a landslide in 2008. Nixon is a long-time Missouri public servant (he was Missouri’s Attorney General for several terms before becoming governor) and has built a reputation as a moderate Democrat. He has selectively used his veto pen to hem in the ambitions of the vastly Republican state legislature, picking fights only where he can be assured of public support (such as by striking down a law that sought to make it harder for workers to sue for discrimination) and withholding his veto power in cases that could embroil him in a costly, partisan battle (such as when laws limiting abortion rights come to his desk). He has avoided ruffling the feathers of any of the major interests in the state and has noticeably shied away from any intense, partisan battles. His timely and visible response to the Joplin tornado as well as his jobs tours around the state seem to have shown voters that he cares about their issues.

As a result, Nixon is one of the most popular governors in the country, despite presiding over a state that voted for John McCain in 2008 and swung strongly against Democrats in 2010.  His average approval rating is 48% while is average disapproval is 29%, making his net approval +19%, a very strong number (and also his margin of victory in 2008). This, added to the inherent advantages of  incumbency, makes Nixon a strong favorite for re-election. If the election is a referendum on his stewardship of the state, he will likely win.

His likely 2012 opponent is Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder (R). Unfortunately for Kinder, the Lt. Governor of Missouri is slightly less useful than the Vice President of the United States. Besides chairing a few committees, Kinder really has no responsibilities or roles that could help him get his name out in front of the public in a positive light. Because of this, his list of accomplishments as Lt. Governor is very small (I really can’t think of any off-hand). He will be forced to run a campaign against a sitting, popular governor as a generic Republican. That doesn’t seem to hold much promise, but anything can change in over a year’s time.

As for fundraising, Nixon is kicking Kinder’s behind.

US Senate

Missouri also has a sitting, first-term Democratic Senator in Claire McCaskill. Claire’s numbers have not been so strong  since the debate over  health care reform (which is very unpopular in Missouri), but they have improved recently to the point where her disapproval and approval is about even. This race will be very difficult for the incumbent. While the governor’s race will focus on state politics, this race will be dominated by national politics. In conservative-leaning Missouri, the person with a (D) next to their name will be at more of a disadvantage in a  race dominated by President Obama. The Washington Post’s The Fix has rated McCaskill’s seat as the #3 most likely Senate seat to change hands in 2012. That’s not a good ranking to have.

Claire has been a fairly moderate senator, though she did vote for the Democrats’ big ticket bills (health reform, the stimulus) in the last Congress. Her opponent will use  those votes giddily in the campaign and that alone may be enough to sink her. Her greatest advantage is that she does not have a formidable opponent at the present time.

Sarah Steelman, the erratic and unpredictable former Missouri State Treasurer has had some problems gaining traction and as of last week had less than $200,000 in cash on hand. US Rep. Todd Akin, her primary opponent had $1.2 million and McCaskill had $2.8 million. Though Akin is a multi-term US Representative, he may be too far  to the right even for Missouri.

He is an avid Tea Party supporter who has made such incendiary and jaw-dropping statements as saying that Social Security is just “a tax…I don’t like it”, that liberals hate it when you say the pledge of allegiance, and most recently, that “At the heart of liberalism, really, is a hatred for God and a belief that government should replace God.” That last one got  him in a lot of trouble with a group of liberal pastors who, wouldn’t you know, don’t hate God and don’t think that the government should replace God. Akin, for his part hasn’t really apologized. Anyway, someone with such clear antagonism toward people with beliefs different than his own will have a harder time taking on Claire.

Missouri’s Second US Congressional Seat

Missouri redistricted this year, and the Republican legislature eliminated the Democratic seat in the St. Louis area occupied by Rep. Russ Carnahan. Missouri now has 2 Democratic leaning seats and 6 Republican-leaning seats. No, in case you were wondering, there are not 3 times as many Republicans in Missouri as Democrats,  in fact the Cook rankings say that Missouri is a mere 3 percentage points more Republican  than Democratic. But that’s beside the point. In 2012 there will be only one semi-competitive House seat in Missouri, the new second district.

The new second leans Republican, as it went only 46 percent for Obama in 2008. Since his district was eliminated, Russ Carnahan is being pushed to run in the Second. Though he does not actually live  in the new district, he would be a big name and could possibly pull that McCain district into the Democrats’ column. Carnahan has raised over a half million in in the first half of the year, showing that he could be competitive if he decides to run. If he does, it will definitely be an uphill slog. Carnahan won by only a few points last year in his Democratic-leaning district, though the electoral environment will probably be more friendly toward Democrats in 2012.

Carnahan’s two likely opponents, businessman Ed Martin and former Ambassador Anne Wagner have both been named to the first stage of the “Young Guns” program by the National Republican Congressional Committee, showing that he will have tough competition for the seat. Martin was Carnahan’s opponent last year and also resides outside of the district. Wagner was a major fundraiser for George W. Bush (she was a political appointee as ambassador) and a former state Republican Party chair so she should have no problem securing the backing of major donors and Republican higher-ups.

Initial race leanings:

Governor: Nixon is the strong favorite

Senate: McCaskill is a very slight favorite

MO-2: I’d give the edge to Wagner to win the GOP nod and the general election.