The Show-Me State has a Senatorial, presidential, gubernatorial and House races this year. First, the easy part of the analysis: the House races.
The current House delegation favors the Republican Party 6-2 and there are no indications that will change this year. All incumbents are running for reelection and all should win reelection. Thus, the GOP maintains their dominance in this state at this level.
On the Senatorial front, GOP incumbent Roy Blunt won his primary with over 72% of the vote of over 600,000 cast. On the Democratic side, state secretary of state Jason Kander won his primary with almost 70% of the vote of over 300,000 cast. GOP turnout was 2-1 over Democratic turnout in the state’s primary elections. Granted, one of Kander’s primary opponents was marijuana legalization advocate sporting one of the best names in politics this year: Chief Wana Dubie.
Blunt won this seat in 2010 over Missouri political powerhouse Robin Carnahan with 54% of the vote. Of course, that was a midterm, not presidential election year. Turnout in presidential election years runs about 15-20% higher than midterm years. Perhaps that is the reason why the incumbent leads by only 3 points in polling thus far. Most pundits rate this race either a toss-up or leaning/tilting Republican.
The Democratic Party has recently decided to spend $3.5 million on this race as their chances in other states have turned downwards (think Ohio). Kander was always an attractive dark horse, but the DSCC was concentrating in other areas before their recent decision to invest in this race. Missouri voters sometimes exhibit an independent, anti-incumbent streak and the question is whether they accept Kander as an acceptable alternative to Blunt.
Roy Blunt sports a respectable 49% voter approval rating. Anything lower than 45% signals trouble for an incumbent. In a phrase, this is Blunt, the Washington insider versus Kander, the outsider. How much that dynamic plays into this election is very important. Blunt has served in the House, as state secretary of state and in the Senate for over two decades now which makes him the consummate political insider. It is usually Blunt standing alongside Mitch McConnell during his weekly press briefings. He is running for reelection in a year when voters are calling for an end to Washington insiders and “politics as usual.”
Which is why two months ago, despite his many gaffes, Trump has improved his chances in Missouri. In July, Trump led Clinton by only 4 points in Missouri, but through 15 polls conducted in the state during September he led by an average of 8.27 points. Therefore, while GOP presidential fortunes have increased in the state, their Senatorial chances have actually decreased. Coupled with changing Democratic chances elsewhere in states like Ohio and Florida, winning this Senate seat has completely changed the race.
Furthermore, Kander is touting his outsider status and his military service in Afghanistan. He has bucked Democratic orthodoxy in three key areas: (1) he supports a balanced budget amendment, (2) he opposes the Iran nuclear deal, and (3) he opposes closing the detention center at Guantanamo. And the trends in the polls signal trouble for Blunt. In April, he led Kander by 10.5 points and that lead has evaporated to 3.1 points. This race has the potential to be a huge surprise come Election Day and one the GOP was not counting on. To his credit, Blunt maintains a high profile in his state and makes it a priority to visit every county when at home and he has avoided the pitfalls of some other recent incumbents and built up a huge war chest.
As Blunt’s numbers have dropped, Trump’s numbers have improved at the top of the ticket. Consider this fact: in the last four presidential elections when a Senate seat was up for grabs in Missouri, voters split the ticket three times. That, given the environment of hostility towards Washington insiders does not bode well for Roy Blunt, a politician who could be a poster boy for that moniker. Thus, it would not be a big surprise should Trump win the 10 electoral votes and Missouri voters send Blunt packing.
That outsider enthusiasm extends to the gubernatorial race this year where Democrat Jay Nixon is term-limited. In the GOP primary, voters rejected two seasoned politicians in the form of Catherine Hanaway and Pete Kinder and John Brunner who ran for the Senate nomination in 2012. Hence, once again the outsider Eric Greitens prevails.
What makes this interesting is that Pete Kinder, the state attorney general, won that office running as a Democrat after being a Republican prior to that run. He has also received the endorsement of the NRA and the powerful Missouri Farm Bureau. Although polls show a tightening race, Republican hopes should not be high here. Thus, it will be a mixed bag of results from Missouri this year for the GOP.
This writer’s fearless predictions assume a worse-case scenario for the GOP. First, the House delegation will remain 6-2 in favor of the GOP. Donald Trump will win Missouri’s 10 electoral votes by 5-8 points over Hillary Clinton. However, Pete Kinder will be the next Governor of the state winning by about 8 points while on the Senatorial front, Blunt will either prevail by a very small margin, or lose outright. This writer is predicting a Kander victory at this point.
After Missouri, the electoral vote count stands at 159-144 in favor of Clinton. The GOP loses an opportunity to pick up a gubernatorial seat. The House delegation will not change as the GOP will maintain their 239-196 advantage. However, things are looking more bleak in the Senate as the GOP advantage there now stands at 52-48.
Next: Georgia and South Carolina