It’s highly doubtful this comes as a shock, but the folks at The Lincoln Project are full of it. Again. (Still?)
My RedState colleague Sister Toldjah alerted me earlier today to a tweet from my former Senator, Claire McCaskill. I don’t share McCaskill’s politics (naturally), and I’ve been a not-infrequent critic. (See, e.g., Whoops! McCaskill Steps in It Again and Claire McCaskill’s Insult of Ben Carson Is a Strong Contender for Most Obnoxious Tweet of the Day.) But, on occasion, she does get things right, and I will grant that she has a better sense of what Missouri is and isn’t than the griftorious poachers of personal DM’s over there at the “We’re Using the First Republican President as a Beard for Our Not-So-Subtle Efforts to Elect Democrats” Project.
Ummm. Betting you haven’t been here lately. https://t.co/se4fmoncws
— Claire McCaskill (@clairecmc) March 11, 2021
For those who may have missed it, earlier this week, Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo) announced he would not be seeking re-election in 2022. Since then, there’s been a flurry of activity and speculation as to what might happen with that seat. (Earlier today, for instance, my colleague Jennifer Oliver O’Connell highlighted the interest signaled by Missouri’s disgraced former Governor.)
So the “smart set” over at TLP apparently felt inspired to vaunt their Show-Me State savvy by declaring it a swing state. (Translation: “Throw more money at us so we can try to get another Democrat elected and teach those “credulous Boomer rubes” a lesson for daring to vote for The Orange Man. Also, throw more money at us.”)
“Swing state,” you say?
In 2016, Missouri elected a Republican President of the United States (Donald Trump) by an 18.6-point margin. We elected a Republican Governor by a 5.6-point margin, a Republican Lt. Governor by a 10.5-point margin, a Republican Secretary of State by a 19.2-point margin, a Republican Treasurer by a 17.1-point margin, and a Republican Attorney General (Josh Hawley) by a 17-point margin.
The Show-Me State, in 2016, also beefed up its Republican senatorial supermajority, increasing its hold from 24 to 25 (out of 34) seats. Same goes for the Republican supermajority in the Missouri House, edging up from 115 to 117 (out of 163) seats.
So noting that Senator Blunt “only won by 2.8%” and asserting this equates to Missouri being a “swing state,” is a bit like contending that Adam Wainwright’s 1.999 batting average makes the St. Louis Cardinals a bottom-tier ball club. Nice metrics there, yo.
It’s fair to wonder why Blunt’s 2016 win was so narrow, compared to other races. When he first claimed the seat in 2010, he beat then-Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (daughter of former Governor Mel Carnahan, former Senator Jean Carnahan, and sister of former Congressman Russ Carnahan) by a margin of almost 14 points. That seat had previously been held by Republican Kit Bond (since 1986), so for it to go to another Republican — particularly when the other seat was held by a Democrat — was not overly surprising, Carnahan’s pedigree notwithstanding. Blunt had served in the U.S. House since 1996, and prior to that, had served as Missouri’s Secretary of State himself. He was a known entity, a solid but uncontroversial conservative, and a reasonable contrast to McCaskill.
So why did things tighten up so for Blunt in 2016? As noted above, it certainly wasn’t that Missouri shifted blue in 2016. Blunt’s opponent was Democrat Jason Kander — then-Secretary of State (noting a pattern here?) and former State Representative. Kander had a solid back story — attorney, author, former intelligence officer with the Army National Guard. He was young and likable. And he ran a solid campaign:
On February 19, 2015, Kander entered the race to represent Missouri in the United States Senate against Roy Blunt, the Republican incumbent. He won the Democratic primary against three other candidates on August 2, 2016. During the campaign, he positioned himself as a Washington, DC outsider and touted his experience as an Army Intelligence officer. He accused Blunt of being well connected to DC lobbyists (Blunt’s wife and three children are in fact lobbyists). Blunt in turn accused Kander of being too liberal.
In September, Kander’s campaign received national attention when it released an advertisement explaining his support for gun control measures. Titled “Background Checks”, it showed him assembling an AR-15 rifle while blindfolded and then challenging Blunt to attempt the same thing. The advertisement quickly went viral, and as of November 2016, the original YouTube video had earned more than 1.3 million views. Initially, Kander was well behind in the race, but polls started to show a tightening in the fall.
So, yes, Blunt’s win then was relatively narrow. Was it a harbinger of the direction Missouri was trending politically? Hardly.
In 2018, Republicans maintained their supermajority in the Missouri Senate (24-10) and in the Missouri House (116-47). The only statewide race that year was for Auditor — that race went to the incumbent (Nicole Galloway, a Democrat — the sole Democratic statewide officeholder since 2016. As an aside, Galloway ran for Governor in 2020 and lost to the Republican candidate. More on that below.)
And, perhaps of more relevance, the U.S. Senate seat which had been held by none other than Democrat Claire McCaskill since 2006 flipped to Republican Josh Hawley, by a margin of 5.8 points.
The 2020 election saw similar results. Statewide, Republican Donald Trump won again (by 15.4 points), Republican Mike Parson retained the Governor’s seat (by 16.4 points), Republican Mike Kehoe retained the Lt. Governor’s seat (by 19.6 points), Republican Jay Ashcroft retained the Secretary of State’s seat (by 24.1 points), Republican Scott Fitzpatrick retained the Treasurer’s seat (by 21 points), and Republican Eric Schmitt retained the Attorney General’s seat (by 21.5 points.) In the legislature, the Republican supermajority remained in both houses, with the Senate again at 24-10 and the House at 114-49. (Further aside: To the extent the upcoming redistricting might favor one party, how do you suppose that will lean?)
So, as far as political operatives go, I’d say the gang at The Lincoln Project are woefully uninformed when it comes to Missouri. (Though I don’t doubt they’ll be rooting around for opportunities to
grift play spoiler in the 2022 Senatorial race.)
Occasionally, I agree with Claire. This would be one of those occasions. But I do look forward to a bunch of non-Missourians attempting to “educate” us on our state. 🙄 https://t.co/QTJ5SbZSrJ
— Susie Moore (@SmoosieQ) March 11, 2021
Is a Republican replacing Blunt a sure thing? Of course not. But anyone who thinks Missouri’s going to be easy pickin’s has another thing coming. Or, in the immortal words of another “famous” Missourian: Horse hockey.