Thursday, August 31, 2006

Bringing in the Big Guns

The Post-Dispatch is reporting what's been reported elsewhere: former North Carolina senator John Edwards will be in Springfield on Labor Day. He'll be at Fassnight Park for the Springfield Labor Council's annual picnic.

It will be Edwards' third visit to the Ozarks. He was here in January 2004 when he was running for president. His rally on the (Southwest) Missouri State campus packed Strong Hall.

He returned in August of that year, campaigning on the Kerry-Edwards ticket on the (S)MS campus and Willard.


In Arkansas, the current and former presidents are helping the candidates for governor:

LITTLE ROCK (AP) - President Bush's visit to Arkansas helped Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson raise more money in a day than Hutchinson has raised in a month so far.

About 850 people paid at least $500 dollars to attend a luncheon at the Little Rock home of former Arkansas and NBA basketball player Joe Kleine. Party officials say the event brought in more than $650,000 overall. About $400,000 of that will go toward Hutchinson's campaign and the rest to the state party.

Since the start of the year, when he had to begin filing campaign finance reports monthly, Hutchinson's best month was July.

That month he raised almost $263,000.

The Hutchinson fundraiser wasn't open to the public, but Bush praised Hutchinson to reporters outside a Little Rock restaurant after the event. Bush said Hutchinson is the kind of person who
gets results and gets the job done.

Democrat Mike Beebe has a heavy hitter coming in next month for his campaign. Former President Bill Clinton will campaign for Beebe in a September 7 "fish and frog leg" fundraiser in North Little Rock.

Independent Rod Bryan and Green Party nominee Jim Lendall also are seeking the governor's post.

Dick Morris' Advice for Jim Talent

Dick Morris, the controversial political consultant who advised President Clinton for 20 years, is offering some advice to embattled Republican U.S. Senate candidates across the country in a column in Human Events.

In a word . . . Triangulation.

Zip it on Iraq, and talk about homeland security, so says Morris.

"Bush and the Republicans under attack -- Sens. Mike DeWine, Conrad Burns, Lincoln Chafee, Jim Talent and Rick Santorum, and numerous House members -- need to talk about the Patriot Act, the NSA wiretaps and the resources allocated to homeland security. They should talk about Iraq only when asked, and then only briefly. Yes, the war in Iraq is connected to the War on Terror. Obviously, al Qaeda is behind many of the attacks in Iraq. Obviously, the streets of Baghdad are the alternative to Manhattan as the place in which the War on Terror is waged. But, equally obviously, it is political suicide to insist on drawing the connection. So, Republicans: Don't even think about it!"

Morris believes the Democrats are still vulnerable on national security issues, like the Patriot Act and NSA wiretapping. He urges the G.O.P. to keep focused on the risk of domestic terror.

If this isn't a cynical ending line, I'm not sure what is:

"Republicans can't afford to insist on being re-elected for the right reasons. But if they take what American public opinion is prepared to give them, they can yet salvage this election."

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Connor: Stem Cell Gap Will Close

Missouri State University political science professor George Connor says public opinion on a constitutional amendment to protect various forms of stem cell research will be closely divided by time the November election rolls around.

A poll conducted by the St. Louis Post Dispatch in January found that 64% of Missourians believe the state should pursue all forms of stem cell research approved under federal law, including embryonic research.

But Connor predicts that gap will narrow once opponents gear up against the amendment this fall. "It's 60-40 right now, but it will be at least 50-50 by November, if not going the other way," Connor says.

"The conventional wisdom that the stem cell initiative will help Claire McCaskill and Democrats is overoptimistic. The opposition hasn't even kicked in yet," Connor says.

Connor believes once the Missourians Against Human Cloning begin aggressively making their case to the public, opinion will begin to even out.

"The gay marriage issue here was 70-30 against. That same group of people, in large part, will come together to work against stem cells," Connor says.

That campaign against embryonic stem cell research is already ramping up right here in the Ozarks.

This past Sunday, Dr. Cara Brown gave a presentation on the science of stem cells, cloning and Amendment 2 at the Harvest Community Church in Rogersville, Mo.

PBS NewsHour: Stem Cells Could Turn Missouri Senate Race

The Newshour on PBS profiled Missouri's Senate race tonight, honing in on how the stem cell ballot initiative will impact turnout in one of the nation's premiere races.

Reporter Kwame Holman tracks Jim Talent and Claire McCaskill at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia. Holman notes how the Missouri Republican party is divided over the ballot initiative, and that Democrats "eagerly" hope to capitalize on the fracture.

While most polls show a majority of Missourians favor the stem cell constitutional amendment, Republican consultant and blogger Jeff Roe believes intensity is on the side of the amendment's opponents. Not surprisingly, lefty blogger Roy Temple at Fired Up Missouri disagrees.

Holman sums up his 9-minute piece (9 minutes!! . . . Isn't PBS great!) this way: "With the race expected to go down to the wire, both candidates will have a sharp eye on independent voters, a third of Missouri's electorate. How motivated they are by the stem cell initiative could decide who wins in November."

George Will on Talent/McCaskill

Here's a conservative's conservative look at Missouri's U.S. Senate Race via johncombest.com.

"If you seek this year's emblematic election, look at Missouri. In this bellwether state, which has voted with the winner in 25 of the past 26 presidential elections, the U.S. Senate contest between incumbent Republican Jim Talent and state auditor Claire McCaskill encompasses today's political controversies," writes George Will in an Aug. 30th column.

Click HERE to read the whole thing.

Financial Services Stick With GOP, Blunt

The major financial service companies are once again doling out a majority of their campaign contributions to Republicans, according to a new article by the American Banker.

"As of Aug. 7 companies in the financial sector had given 64% of nearly $40 million of their political action committee contributions to Republican candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan think tank that tracks money in politics," writes Stacy Kaper.

The companies include Bank of America Corp., Wachovia Corp., and Mellon Financial Corp.

Political analysts believe this is notable particularly because the conventional wisdom swirling right now is that Democrats will pick up seats in Congress this November, and possibly even takeover one of the chambers.

The mortgage industry also favors the G.O.P. Top recipients from Freddie Mac's political action committee include Rep. Roy Blunt, according to the Banker article.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

75% in Arkansas Believe Bible Is Literally True

A recent Rasmussen poll shows the Bible Belt living up to its name.

According to an Aug. 26th survey, 75% of those surveyed in Arkansas believe the Bible is literally true. That ties for tops in the nation with Alabama.

"In Arkansas, the question proves to be one of the rare ones that doesn’t cause divisions along party lines; 83% of Republicans and 75% of Democrats say the believe in the Bible’s literal truth. Seventy-nine percent (79%) of women and 69% of men identify themselves as true believers," according to the Rasmussen report.

In Vermont and Massachusetts, only 22% of those respondents believe the Bible is literally true—the lowest percentages in all states surveyed.

Tried to dig up the Show-Me-State's number . . . but don't have that pricey premium membership.

McCaskill's Gas Pump Mandate

From the Associated Press Tuesday:

OVERLAND, Mo. (AP) - Democratic Senate candidate Claire McCaskill proposed a new government mandate for gasoline pumps Tuesday that would allow the volume of fuel flowing into vehicles to automatically adjust with the temperature.

Republican Sen. Jim Talent suggested he, too, would be open to such a proposal -- but only if it would not cost motorists more than they stand to gain.

AP uber-reporter David Lieb wraps it up this way:

If she wins the Nov. 7 senatorial election, McCaskill said she would pursue a federal requirement that all newly installed gasoline pumps be equipped with temperature sensors that can adjust fuel volumes accordingly. McCaskill said the government should also look at a phased-in retrofitting of existing pumps in a manner "that wouldn't be too onerous." But the cost of the changes should not fall on taxpayers, she said.

"It's up to the oil companies to pay for it," McCaskill said. "We are not going to give them incentives, we are not going to give them tax breaks. We are going to make them use three or four days worth of profits to get it done."

Talent spokesman Rich Chrismer said McCaskill has opposed other measures that Talent believes would reduce the price of gasoline, such as drilling for more oil in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. But Talent also would consider government involvement in fuel pump adjustments, he said.

"Anything that unfairly raises prices for consumers is a problem, whether its price gouging by the oil companies or hot fuel," Chrismer said. "Sen. Talent has sponsored legislation to help stop price gouging and he is open to solutions to fix the hot fuel problem that don't end up costing consumers more they stand to gain."

More Noland . . . on Minimum Wage

Republican candidate Jim Noland said he hasn't made up his mind yet on whether to vote for a Missouri ballot initiative that would raise the minimum wage.

But if you listen to how he feels about the government mandating wages as a philosophy, he doesn't seem enthusiastic about the idea.

He said he's never paid anyone just $5.15 for a good hour of work.

"I'm a farmer. I don't hire anybody for $5.15 an hour. I go get Mennonites I pay $10 an hour," Noland said. "But if I had a full time employee I had to pay $10 an hour, 40 hours a week, I'd have to have 52 cows just to pay for the farmhand. Most small farmers don't have that many cows."

Noland makes the case that a mandatory minimum wage hike could hurt some small farmers stay in business. "Unless government wants to come along and guarantee something else besides wages, I really see a little bit of a problem guaranteeing wages when I have products to sell and I don't have any guarantee there. I think the principle is wrong."

Asked how he will vote on Missouri's minimum wage ballot initiative, Noland responded, " I really hadn't given a lot of thought to it."

Rep. Ike Skelton said he will vote to raise Missouri's minimum wage this November.

Noland Wins Right To Life Support Because of Stem Cell Stance

Republican Jim Noland has run three times in Missouri's 4th Congressional District . . . and he's lost three times against Rep. Ike Skelton.

But this time Noland is boasting the support of Missouri Right to Life because of his stance against embryonic stem cell research. A Right to Life organizer in the 4th District told me Noland won the group's endorsement for the first time this year because of some of Skelton's "embryonic stem cell votes" on the federal level. Yet a Right to Life survey shows the group endorsed one of Noland's opponents in the Republican primary, Alan Conner.

While Skelton supports the state ballot initiative to protect various forms of stem cell research, Noland opposes it. He said he believes the initiative is a backdoor attempt to restrict future legislation against abortion.

"I think the underlying motive is that when they change the constitution, those persons who are proponents to Right to Life, they will be forever barred for any kind of legislation that has to do with abortion," Noland told me Monday at a Lebanon restaurant.

"I don't think they are concerned about funding cures for illnesses. I'm not against stem cells. I'm against embryonic stem cells," Noland added. "But there's a world of difference. You're destroying a life there. My definition of life is at conception."

Noland also said he is disgusted with former Sen. Jack Danforth for appearing in pro-embryonic stem cell television ads. "Jack Danforth comes on and he looks right into the TV camera and he says it is going to be a cure for all ills. Jack Danforth knows better than that. I'm ashamed he comes on TV with those persons of us who have supported him through the years and make such statements."

Measuring Talent's Vulnerability

From Human Events via johncombest.com:

Writer Kevin Combest takes a close look at three supposedly "anti-incumbent" races, and concludes that the "anti-incumbent" movement is greatly exaggerated.

One incumbent who Combest believes isn't as vulnerable as the media thinks is Sen. Jim Talent.
"Earlier this year, Talent appeared to be on the ropes, either tying or trailing his opponent McCaskill in most polls. McCaskill’s leads never escaped single digits, but catch-up is not a safe game for an incumbent senator, no matter how shallow the hole may be. Now, Talent is polling on top, leading Claire McCaskill by an average of two points in the latest RCP average. Yes, it’s only two points, and sure, things can change. But if one of the Senate’s most vulnerable incumbents is leading at all, the idea of an anti-incumbent climate is doubtful."

Combest concludes:

"If the anti-incumbent crowd is correct, these three races should be cake walks. They are not. As with so many insurgent candidacies, it appears that these three challengers have peaked."

Skelton on Iran: "We Don't Talk About That"

Democratic Rep. Ike Skelton seemed reluctant to talk about any possibility of a military confrontation with Iran in an interview in Lebanon Monday.

When I asked Skelton if he would in any way support surgical airstrikes in parts of Iran believed to have nuclear weapons or facilities, he signaled he didn't want to talk about that.

"We don't talk about that. We hope that doesn't come to pass," Skelton replied.

When I pressed Skelton on why this topic wasn't relevant for discussion, he stopped me. "Did you hear what I said?," Skelton asked.

"We don't want to even think about that because Iran could very well be a tinderbox. I hope we can handle this Iranian problem diplomatically. It's going to be difficult but we don't need another war."

Noland on Iraq: "We've Already Won"

The Republican candidate challenging Rep. Ike Skelton says he believes the United States has already won the war in Iraq.

In an interview in Lebanon on Monday, I asked Republican Jim Noland how we would know when we have won the war in Iraq and could bring U.S. troops home.

"I think we've already won. We've already won," Republican challenger Jim Noland replied.

Noland then went on to say that unfortunately, "the terrorists are still determined that we do not have a democracy there."

Here are other direct Q&A exchanges on the foreign policy portion of my interview with Noland:

Catanese - Do you believe the Iraq war has created more terrorists?
Noland - I don't know what we did for terrorists to knock those towers down.

Catanese - What did that have to do with Iraq?
Noland - It doesn't matter if it is Iraq where they are. Terrorists are terrorists. They hate us. These people are dedicated. They're more dedicated than us because they're willing to die for what they believe. And we have a lot of illegal aliens here that would destroy us in a moment. . . We had a different policy in World War Two than we have today. People are much freer about speaking out. We say we can't do anything about illegal aliens. Let me tell you for sure, these people were not even illegal and they weren't aliens but President Roosevelt went around and he picked up every transit, every person that was un-American in any way and put them in camps. And they stayed there until the war was over.

Catanese - Would you support surgical military strikes on Iran?
Noland - I'm not in the position to answer that. I'm not getting the briefings. That's the advantage Ike Skelton has. The disadvantage is that he has a voting record . . . It's wrong for us to let the U.N. dictate to the U.S. what we're to do. I'm afraid Mr. Skelton would support the United Nations policy, whatever it was.

Noland also went on to say that he is appalled by the criticism of the President's war policy while soldiers are fighting overseas. "I think anytime we're critical of this country, I don't care if it is a Congressman or who it is. We're at war. We're not helping our situation. We're not helping this country."

"Ike Skelton was never in the service as a military serviceman, I was," Noland added.

U.S. House 4th District: Skelton vs. Noland . . . Yep, Again.

This will be the fourth time Republican Jim Noland challenges Rep. Ike Skelton for his job representing Missouri's 4th Congressional District.

In 2000, Skelton beat Noland 67%-31%.
In 2002, Skelton whipped Noland 68%-31%.
In 2004, Skelton trounced Noland 66%-32%.

"He's getting closer each time," said G.O.P. spokesman Paul Sloca, with a chuckle.

Well . . . not really.

Even so, Noland isn't shy about challenging Skelton on the issue of Iraq and when to bring U.S. troops home.

On the campaign trail in Lebanon Monday, Skelton repeated his call to bring some U.S. troops home by the end of the year, beginning what he characterized as a "phased, gradual redeployment."

"In December we will have been in Iraq longer than we were in the second World War. A redeployment should begin this calendar year. How many, how fast? That's a military decision," Skelton told me.

Jim Noland said setting any type of public timetable for withdrawal from the region would be foolish. "I don't think it is to our advantage to ever tell our enemies when we're going to stop."

Noland added, "The news I have either comes from the media or Rush Limbaugh and Rush doesn't think we should be out, and I'm with Rush."

Skelton's plan would redeploy America's estimated 138,000 troops to Kuwait, Germany and back to the United States. "It's time for us to have redeployment begin. I'm not saying pull out completely or immediately. But so many Democrats and Republicans are saying to me, 'Ike, let's leave Iraq,'" Skelton said.

"It's a major concern of mine that the sectarian violence is taking over, where the insurgents are leaving off," Skelton added.

Noland believes the United States gains no advantage by setting a definitive date. He said he'll support leaving Iraq when President Bush and those "in authority" feel they have accomplished the goal.

"I wouldn't want to bring home one person that they thought was necessary to stay there," Noland said.

Neither one is particularly intriguing, but for more on either candidate, click below to go to their campaign website.

Jim Noland

Ike Skelton

KC Buzz: McCaskill "Really Worried"

U.S. Senate candidate Claire McCaskill says she's "really worried" about Democratic turnout for the November election, according to a recent entry by the Kansas City Star's political blog.

From the KC Buzz Blog:

Speaking at a Jackson County Democratic Party brunch this weekend, McCaskill told the crowd the low turnout in the Democratic primary has her concerned about her prospects against Sen. Jim Talent.

"I am really worried," she said. "I saw the turnout. I'm telling you folks we've got problems. We cannot phone this in anymore. If we do not get out there and we do not start sounding the alarm right now, we will not lose this race because we don't have a strong candidate or the right message, we will lose this race because we can't get people to pay attention. So help me, help me, help me."

Monday, August 28, 2006

Talent Extends Lead in Zogby Poll

A new Wall Street Journal-Zogby poll shows Senator Jim Talent pulling ahead of
Democrat Claire McCaskill with just over 70 days until voters make their decision.

Talent 50%
McCaskill 45%

The poll was conducted between Aug. 15-Aug. 21st and remains within the margin of error, but this is Talent's largest lead in this polling project.

From the Wall Street-Journal:

"Just one percentage point separated these candidates in the initial months of Zogby polling, but Talent's lead in this latest poll is as wide as it has been in the polling project. Zogby notes that Talent has a wide lead among male voters."

Is Talent beginning to show signs of pulling away?

Missouri State University political science professor George Connor is cautionary about reading too much into these numbers. "I wouldn't say it is significant yet. The ads are significant," Connor said.

"Talent's ads are tapping into the working across party lines message. I think his bump is in part due to securing moderate leaning Republicans, some independents that don't like Congress because of the constant bickering. In these ads, Talent is highlighting his work with the other side," Connor said.

"I don't think this is the beginning of the end for Claire. If this goes beyond the margin of error next time and the time after that, then we'll start to look at it more seriously," Connor said.

Political science professor Stacey Ulbig is not ready to read too much into these numbers either. "You may not be seeing real fluctuations, just sampling fluctuations. It's still close, within the margin of error," Ulbig said.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Hunting for the Undecided Voter

After we aired our story on Thursday about the KY3 U.S. Senate Debate on October 16th, we received a few calls from viewers inquiring about how they could learn more about both campaigns.

One caller from Stone County got me thinking. He was an older man and described himself as a lifelong, proud Democrat. He asked for the campaign phone numbers and websites for both Senator Jim Talent and Claire McCaskill. He said he had been following the race, but wanted to learn more.

When I asked him who he was supporting, he paused and said although he's a lifelong Democrat, he will break away from the party occasionally to vote for "the person." He said he liked a lot of what he was hearing from McCaskill, but hadn't yet closed the door on possibly supporting Talent.

Why?

He said he really liked what Talent was saying on television, about bipartisanship, working with the other side, putting people before politics. For the last few weeks the Talent campaign has bombarded television markets with a variety of ads touting Talent as a Senator who is just that. It's just a small example of why political ads matter. This man inferred that a lot of what he was hearing about the race came from the advertisements. He said Talent seemed likeable in the ads and he therefore wasn't ready to commit one way or the other. He also said he's excited about the race and wanted to learn more.

We're happy he's excited and engaged in the debate. And if you are one of those undecided voters, I'd like to hear from you. Drop me a line at dcatanese@ky3.com.

In a race where the undecided number hovers around 5 percent or less, it is refreshing to hear from someone still wrestling with their decision. It could be a few thousand people out there, like this man from Stone County, who ultimately decide this race.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

U.S. Senate candidates to debate in Springfield on primetime television

The nation will be watching the Ozarks in October.

U.S. Sen. Jim Talent and State Auditor Claire McCaskill agreed to a primetime televised debate in southwest Missouri on Monday night, October 16th.

The debate will take place at the studios of KY3-TV in Springfield. The debate will be sponsored by KY3, the Springfield News-Leader, Ozarks Public Television and KSMU Radio. KY3 News anchor Jerry Jacob will moderate the debate.

During the one-hour event, the candidates will take questions from a three member panel of journalists: KY3 political reporter David Catanese, News-Leader editorial page editor Tony Messenger, and KSMU Senior Governmental Affairs reporter Missy Shelton.

This debate is the second debate agreed to by the candidates. Talent and McCaskill will appear on Meet the Press with Tim Russert on Sunday October 8.

McCaskill debated Governor Blunt on KY3 back in 2004. The last time Senator Talent debated in Springfield was six years ago, when he was running for Governor against Bob Holden.

KY3 won the national Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism for its coverage of the 2004 election. KY3 hosted a debate in 2004 between Missouri candidates for Governor, Matt Blunt and Claire McCaskill.

Jackson asks for recount

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - There will be a recount in Missouri's Republican auditor primary.

Second-place finisher Jack Jackson today formally delivered his recount request to the secretary of state's office.

The election results show Jackson losing by 1,844 votes to Sandra Thomas -- a margin of sixth-tenths of one percent.

Jackson has asked for a statewide hand recount of the ballots -- instead of relying on machines. But it is not clear if he will get his wish.

State law does not mandate a certain recount method.

A spokeswoman for Secretary of State Robin Carnahan says the office will try to balance speed, accuracy and logistics when determining the recount method.

State law requires the recount to be complete in 20 days.

Thomas officially wins, but recount likely

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The official results are in. And Republican Sandra Thomas has prevailed in a close state auditor's primary over Jack Jackson.

The secretary of state's office today certified the results from the August 8 primaries.

Thomas received 86,786 votes in the five-way primary.

Jackson got 84,942 votes. That amounts to a difference of a little more than one-half a percentage point.

Jackson says he plans to officially ask for a recount Friday. Under state law, election authorities then would have 20 days to conduct and certify the results of the recount.

A Jackson spokesman says it is unlikely a recount would make him the winner, but he owes it to his supporters to at least ask.

Who needs an ID? Depends on who you ask

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - State Revenue Director Trish Vincent says the secretary of state's estimate that 240,000 people could be lacking a photo ID needed to vote is overblown.

Secretary of state Robin Carnahan's office said last week that it compared voter registration lists with revenue data on those with a driver's license or state identification card to arrive at the total. Carnahan acknowledged the list could have some errors and today says the exact figure of voters lacking an ID is not important, but it's clear many do.

Vincent says her office did a random sample of 100 names on the list and found 20 that do have a driver's license, permit or ID card.

She offered to run the secretary of state's results against the revenue system to eliminate some who have an ID, and Carnahan says she'll accept the offer.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Stem Cell Solution?

From the New York Times:

"Biologists have developed a technique for establishing colonies of human embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos, a method that, if confirmed in other laboratories, would seem to remove the principal objection to stem cell research."

Embryonic stem cell supporters say this new method of performing a technique on an embryo when it is two days old leaves "no rational reason left to oppose the research." But opponents of embryonic stem cell research still have objections because the technique involves in-vitro fertilization.

Nicholas Wade Reports:

"Ronald M. Green, an ethicist at Dartmouth College and an adviser to Advanced Cell Technology, said he hoped the new method 'provides a way of ending the impasse about federal funding for this research.'"

"He said he believed the method should be seen as compatible with the Dickey-Wicker amendment, the Congressional action that blocked the use of federal funds for research in which a human embryo is destroyed or exposed to undue risk."

NBC's Science Correspondent Robert Bazell explains there is skepticism about this new method because this company has made "headline-making claims before," and while some have panned out, others have not.

You can watch his explanation on Wednesday's Nightly News segment by clicking here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

40% Approve of Governor Blunt

Governor Matt Blunt's approval rating inched up 2 points in August to 40%, according to the latest SurveyUSA tracking poll.

While a majority 54% of Missourians polled still disapprove of the Governor, Blunt is making slow, steady progress since the tracking poll began back in May 2005, where he sat at a low of 33%. He received his highest marks from SurveyUSA this past June, when 42% of those polled gave Blunt a thumbs-up.

In the August poll, here in the Ozarks, voters are split.

46% approve of Blunt; 47% disapprove.

Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee scores a 57% approval rating.

Arkansas Governor's Race: Beebe 45%, Hutchinson 41%

Republican Asa Hutchinson is hot on Democrat Mike Beebe's trail, closing within 4 points of the frontrunner in the Arkansas campaign for Governor, according to the latest Rasmussen poll.

"For most of the year, the Democrat enjoyed a double digit lead. Then, July’s survey showed Beebe on top 47% to 40%," reports Rasmussen.

But Attorney General Beebe's advantage continues to evaporate, in part due to a better performance by Congressman Hutchinson among his base.

"The current poll shows Hutchinson performing better with his base, pulling support from 81% of GOP voters. Comparatively, 73% of Democrats say they support Beebe," reports Rasmussen.

This was a survey of 500 likely Arkansas voters on August 15th.

Missouri ballot gets progressive

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missourians will have a fourth choice this November when voting for Senator, auditor and some other top offices.

The Progressive Party says it has been approved by the secretary of state to field candidates in six races this fall. The party had to submit more than 10,000 signatures to make the
ballot.

Party organizers say they are affiliated with the Green Party of the United States.

The Democrat, Republican and Libertarian parties all have automatic spots on the Missouri ballot based on the number of votes their candidates received in the last general election.

The Progressive Party candidate for U.S. Senate is Lydia Lewis of St. Louis. It's auditor candidate is Terry Bunker of Kansas City.

Talent takes lead in Rasmussen poll

Coming off their big (albeit expected) wins on primary night in Missouri, Sen. Jim Talent now leads by a nose in the U.S. Senate race against Claire McCaskill in the latest Rasmussen poll. This month, it's 46-44 Talent. A month ago, McCaskill has ahead 45-42.

Why did he go up? British terror plot bump? The barrage of media buys since the primary? Maybe the sample ate toast for breakfast instead of cereal.

Let's face it -- the only poll that counts is the one on November 7. The polls only give us a snapshot of now and the picture we're getting is this race is close.

You Tube politics

There have been a number of articles written in recent days about the effect on You Tube on politics.

It stems from a foot-in-mouth moment for Sen. George Allen, R-Virigina, who used a racially insensitive term at a campaign event. Cameras were rolling and it didn't take long for this clip to circulate around the world and more importantly in political circles.

The lesson for candidates at all levels: watch what you say. You never know when a camera is rolling or a microphone is open. Allen's comments will likely be long forgotten by the time voters decide whether he's worthy to be president. But the landmine is there for some candidate to really get caught in a Trent Lott moment.

Missouri's video watchdogs are on the prowl as well. A number of clips with Sen. Jim Talent and Claire McCaskill are available on You Tube. Search for your favorite politician -- you just might find them.

MSNBC took a tounge-in-cheek look at this phenomenon Monday night.

It's the Calendar, Stupid.

We've been following the developments in the Democratic party over the early primaries in 2008. Last Saturday, the DNC set its calendar for picking its nominee. Iowa goes first with its caucuses on Monday, January 14. Nevada will immediately follow on the following Saturday, followed by the New Hamphire primary on Tuesday January 22. South Carolina runs its primary the following Saturday.

The move is meant to empower Hispanic voters in Nevada and African-American voters in South Carolina by giving them some say early in the process for picking a nominee.

New Hampshire-ites aren't happy about it. They wear the "First in the Nation" label like a badge of honor. It's even written into their state laws that the New Hampshire Primary must take place seven days earlier than any "similar" election. To meet that standard would require pushing the primary almost into December.

To circumvent such a move by New Hampshire and its secretary of state, the Democrats also established provisions to punish any candidate and state who breaks their rules. Any candidates who don't follow the rules would be ineligible to receive that state's delegates the convention.

Some of the candidates have already pledged they will honor New Hampshire as the first primary.

Here are some of the potential effects of this move by the DNC:

1) Organizations will be key now -- States want to be involved in picking the next president. They want the attention of the candidates. Look for more states to shoot for that February 5th date when states like Missouri, Alabama, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, among others, hold their primaries. That meants candidates who are serious about winning need to be in those states now, seetting up organizations, raising money, pressing flesh because it's going to be a sprint in late 2007.

2) No comeback kids -- New Hampshire prides itself on giving underogs a chance. John McCain won there. So did Paul Tsongas and Pat Buchanan and Edmund Muskie. With four states having primaries/caucuses in 12 days, there won't be time to make a last minute surge. It'll be about TV and again having strong organizations in place.

3) No fresh ideas -- New Hampshire defenders will say the homes and pubs of their people are where new ideas begin, evolve and eventually become the messages of the candidates. They are the national focus group, helping shape ideas by offering one-on-one face-to-face reaction for the candidates. By changing the calendar, there won't be time for that kind of personal interaction. Too many states in too little time to sit down and break bread with New Hampshire.

Republicans don't plan to make changes to their primary calendar. They will honor Iowa and New Hampshire and set February 5 as the earliest date any other state can hold a primary.

C-SPAN has a great discussion among New Hampshire officials about this. Watch it now using Real Player.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Audit: Thomas Made Errors

From the Associated Press Monday:

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - An independent audit cites errors by Platte County Auditor Sandra Thomas in its investigation into a 195-thousand dollar discrepancy in the county's books.

Thomas is the Republican candidate for state auditor. She says the discrepancy is not her fault and most of the problems are the fault of the county treasurer's office and the auditing firm.
Thomas has touted her awards as county auditor and her qualifications as a certified public accountant in her campaign for state auditor.
She declared victory in the five-way Republican primary when results showed her with a slim lead over House member Jack Jackson. If her lead holds up on a recount, Thomas would face Democratic Buchanan County Auditor Susan Montee in the November election.
To read David Lieb's full story, click here.

Barnitz Accuses Snyders of Push Polling

The state Senate campaign of Frank Barnitz is accusing his Republican opponent Susie Snyders of using push poll telemarketing to feed voters "false and damaging" information.

"Susie Snyders is willing to use every deceitful trick in the book . . . and she is starting with ‘push polling’," says a release from the Barnitz campaign.

"A "Push Poll" is a telemarketing technique in which calls are used to feed voters false or damaging "information" about a candidate under the guise of taking a poll to see how this "information" affects voter preferences. In fact, the intent is to "push" the voters away from one candidate and toward the opposing candidate."

The Barnitz campaign says Republican Bill Hickle used the same tactic in the special election against Barnitz.

"I hope that people will take the time to learn about me, where I stand, and what I believe, and not just take the word of some random caller about my positions on the issues," said Barnitz.

Snyders denies her campaign is doing any type of push polling about Barnitz. When I asked her if she knew if the Republican party was using the technique on her behalf, she said did not know.


John Combest: Nobody Cares About the Auditor's Race

John Combest, who provides a daily summary of political news in the state at johncombest.com, makes 10 thought-provoking points in his latest blog entry at johncombestblog.com.

Here's 3 we found notable:

1.) Anyone who lacks the ambition to roll off the couch, brush the potato chips crumbs off their belly, and catch the bus to the local Revenue office to get a photo ID shouldn’t be voting anyway.

3.) Nobody cares about a state auditor’s race, much less with Talent-McCaskill on the ballot. Desperate for attention and hoping for earned media, auditor campaigns will turn to negative ads that have nothing to do with the auditor’s job.

4.) Thomas campaign: “Wealthy trial lawyer.” Montee campaign: “Blunt-Graves-Thomas.” Edge: Montee.

For the rest, click here.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Rolla Senate Race: Barnitz vs. Snyders

Republican Susie Snyders enters her general election race against Democratic State Senator Frank Barnitz amid accusations by her G.O.P. primary opponent that she ran a negative campaign.

From the Rolla Daily News:

"They went negative," Merrill Townley, a veterinarian from Chamois, told our sister publication, the Waynesville Daily Guide, after the votes were counted. Townley, 71, served 20 years in the Missouri House of Representatives. "They had phone calls that made it look like I had never been to votes (in the House). It was a negative campaign. I didn't do that."

A dental hygienist and former campaign worker for Treasurer Sarah Steelman, Snyders is aiming to win the 16th district state senate seat, which includes Phelps County.

"Probably the biggest difference is that I have a diverse background and bring a different perspective. He has been a state rep in Jefferson City for years. I offer something new," Snyders told me in an interview Sunday evening.

Snyders said she couldn't say how she would have voted on the cuts to Medicaid, but added that she is concerned about healthcare access. "I wasn't there when they were making those decisions, so I'd hate to comment," Snyders said.

Snyders had no comment on a possible special session to reinstate some Medicaid cuts. "I can't comments on issues they're working on in Jefferson City right now," Snyders said.

But she did say "it would be a good idea to look at restoring some coverage to those who really need the help."

Barnitz, a socially conservative Democrat, voted against the Medicaid cuts and has signed a petition to call a special session this fall to reinstate part of the old program. "Just cutting the way we did wasn't the best for individuals or the state. If you listen to Republicans who made the cuts, even they understand that now," said Barnitz, who voted against the cuts.

"I don't think we need to go back so far for the whole thing. But for some of these working class people without assistance, they have gone from very productive people to people on the state rolls with no jobs, paying no taxes. Some are just wards of the state," Barnitz added.

On the two November ballot initiatives, Snyders stressed that she is "very pro-life," and will
therefore vote against a constitutional amendment to protect various forms of stem cell research. Barnitz, who also considers himself "pro-life," said he will also vote against the stem cell measure.

"Embryonic stem cells I just can't support because there is no scientific evidence or proof they work," Barnitz said. "I think from a scientific standpoint we can use other tests, like animal embryos and adult stem cells."

Snyders also said she would vote against a proposal to raise Missouri's minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.50 an hour. Barnitz said he is still undecided on that issue.

"It might hinder bringing economic development to the community. That's our first priority," Snyders said.

"I think with the inflationary factors here, with 2 people working and trying to pay the bills and live, $5.15 is tough to do. But we also need to be careful not to raise it too high," Barnitz said. "I want to look at it more before I say I'll vote for it or against it."

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Harpool Says Champion Opposes Stem Cell Research

Doug Harpool's state Senate campaign sent out a press release this week accusing Sen. Norma Champion of hiding her position on embryonic stem cell research from voters.

"Nancy Reagan, former U.S. Sen. Jack Danforth, Greene County Commissioner Roseann Bentley and Doug Harpool agree that voters should support the Missouri Initiative for Lifesaving Cures through stem cell research. Norma Champion, the 73-year-old state senator from Springfield, has yet to uncloak her position," states the Harpool release.

The release assumes Champion is against stem cell research and then calls on Champion "to simply and clearly state her position" on this November's ballot initiative designed to protect various forms of the research.

Attached to the release is a letter from a constituent dated April 24, 2006 requesting Champion's assistance in understanding more about the issue.

Below is Champion's response from May 2006, in its entirety:

"In response to your inquiry on the stem cell initiative, I can only drop you a quick note for now as we are in the last days of the legislative session, and I am in the Senate chamber most of the time.

As you know, the stem cell initiative will be coming to the voters soon. I suggest you contact your county clerk to get the ballot language as this issue is very detailed and the language may help you decide how you wish to vote.

This is an extremely complicated issue, and because it has been taken out of legislators hands, it will require every voter to become educated on the subject to be able to decide what direction he or she feels the state should take.

I fully expect there will be many articles and much information available before the November election to help you become comfortable with your position on the issue. You should also be able to find materials on the internet, and I urge you to read articles on both sides of the issue before making a decision on how you will vote.

Since this issue is now in the hands of Missouri voters, I am very happy that you are taking your vote seriously."


Friday, August 18, 2006

Talent's Approval Rating Climbs to 52%

Sen. Jim Talent has earned his highest approval rating from SurveyUSA's monthly tracking poll in more than a year.

52% of Missourians approve of the job Sen. Jim Talent is doing, according to an August poll of 600 adults. Talent's approval rating has been steadily climbing since May, where he won the nod of just 43% of those polled. He is up 3 points from July's 49% approval rating.

In the August survey, Talent wins 51% of independents, 54% of voters in the Ozarks and 54% in St. Louis. The junior senator seems to be most popular in Central Missouri, where he scored a 58% mark.

Politicos would bet that Talent's late-summer bi-partisan ad blitz is helping lift his numbers. The barrage of ads feature Talent's work as a bipartisan legislator who has joined with Democrats on a host of issues like, the prescription drug benefit, renewable fuels and combating meth.

Noteworthy is that Talent's 52% August approval rating is even a notch higher than Sen. Kit Bond's 51% mark.

North Dakota's Democratic Senator Kent Conrad has the highest approval rating in the poll at 74%. Montana Republican Senator Conrad Burns has the lowest at just 39%.

Ark. candidates agree to debates

LITTLE ROCK (AP) - Gubernatorial candidates Asa Hutchinson and Mike Beebe announced today that they will participate in three debates before the general election this fall.

The first debate between the candidates will be held September 18 in Jonesboro. The second debate is scheduled for October 4 in northwest Arkansas, and the third will be held October 17 in Little Rock.

The specific times and locations of the debates will be announced later on.

In the debates, each candidate will have 10 to 15 minutes to offer an opening statements. If they ant, the candidates can reserve time at the end for closing statements.

Hutchinson and Beebe also will have the option to take questions from the audience.

Bill Clinton stumps for McCaskill

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Former President Bill Clinton will be in St. Louis next month to speak at a fundraising brunch for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Claire McCaskill.

Organizers say details are still being worked out for the event on September 9.

McCaskill is opposing incumbent Republican Jim Talent, who has had President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in St. Louis to help him raise money.

Bill Clinton and Al Gore carried Missouri in 1992 and 1996, although they earned pluralities in both elections. He might be back for more McCaskill stumping. Greene County Democratic chairman Craig Hosmer told the News-Leader Sunday, "I'd bring Bill Clinton in anywhere he can go."

Washington Times: Fair Politics

From the Washington Times Friday:

SEDALIA, Mo. -- Sen. Jim Talent told rural voters at the state fair here yesterday that he is a better choice than state Auditor Claire McCaskill, a Democrat whose national momentum has vaulted her into a dead heat with the Republican incumbent less than three months before the midterm elections.

The article goes on to outline the candidates dueling agricultural endorsements. Talent has been endorsed by the Missouri Farm Bureau; McCaskill has been endorsed by the National Farmers Union Political Action Committee.

Writer Christina Bellantoni also describes their differences on repealing the estate tax, or so-called "death tax." Talent favors a permanent repeal of the tax. McCaskill said yesterday that she supports a permanent exemption for the estate tax on a family farm worth up to $7 million.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

John Edwards In Springfield on Labor Day; Will Hold Fundraiser for McCaskill

Former U.S. Senator and possible 2008 presidential candidate John Edwards will be in Springfield this Labor Day to march in the parade and hold a fundraiser for Claire McCaskill.

According to local Democrats, Edwards was invited by local labor leaders. "He'll be here to meet with the working men and women of the area," said Democratic strategist Nora Walcott.

McCaskill attended Springfield's Labor Day parade last year and her campaign spokeswoman says she'll be marching again this year.

Adrianne Marsh also confirmed that following the 2 p.m. parade on Sept. 4th, McCaskill will attend a fundraiser being held by John Edwards.

Talent "Lean and Spry"

The U.S. Capitol newspaper, "The Hill," has a fun story about how long it takes Senators to vote, and notes that Sen. Jim Talent's slim physique gives him an advantage in the crowded halls of Congress.

Here's the lede:

"The members of the world’s greatest deliberative body are perhaps most deliberate not in debate but in making their way to the floor to vote, routinely stretching 15-minute roll calls to half an hour or more." writes Jonathan Allen.

Allen includes Talent as one of the lawmakers frustrated that certain lumbering Senators slow-down official business, and therefore the entire day.

“I’d like to see something done,” Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.) said.

"At 49, Talent is lean and spry. But some of his creaky-jointed colleagues need more time to navigate the hallways. Others in the upper chamber appear to be completely relaxed when it comes to tardiness," Allen writes.

Talent said there's not much pressure to get to the floor within the 15-minute window for votes. The solution? Talent said leadership should lean on Senators to get to the floor faster.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Dobson, evangelicals mobilizing the base

The Los Angeles Times has a story in Tuesday's edition about efforts by James Dobson's Focus on the Family to register voters through churches in an effort to mobilize and galvanize Republican support.

Missouri is not included in the list of states being targeted (those are Maryland, Montana, Tennessee, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Minnesota.)

Evangelicals will likely be enegized by the stem cell vote in the Show-Me State.

SurveyUSA: McCaskill 47%, Talent 46%

The latest poll in Missouri's sizzling U.S. Senate race is no surprise.

Senator Jim Talent and Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill are in a statistical tie again.

According to the latest SurveyUSA poll, McCaskill holds a non-significant 1 percentage point advantage over Talent, 47%-46%. Just 5 percent of voters in the poll remain undecided.

900 Missouri residents were polled between Aug. 12th and Aug. 14th. Of the 900, 779 were registered to vote. Of them, 464 were judged to be likely voters. The poll's margin of error is 4.6%, either way.

Breakdown:

*McCaskill wins women by 11%; Talent wins men by 9% . . . Hello, gender gap.
*McCaskill leads moderates 2 to 1 . . . But how many moderates are out there?
*McCaskill leads by 15% in greater St. Louis, 16% in Kansas City; Talent wins the Ozarks 2 to 1 . . . Turnout, Turnout, Turnout, Which area is more motivated?

Alan Keyes To Rally Against Stem Cells in Springfield

Missouri Right to Life is bringing former presidential candidate Alan Keyes to Springfield next month to lead a rally against a ballot initiative to protect stem cell research.

It's being dubbed the "Springfield Area Christians Against Human Cloning" rally. It will be held on Thursday, September 21st from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Central Assembly of God at 1301 North Boonville Ave.

Joining Dr. Keyes will be Dr. Rick Scarborough of Vision America. Right to Life says Vision America works nationwide to mobilize pastors to speak out on issues relevant to culture.

For more information on the event, you can e-mail Right to Life's Dave Plemmons at mrl.springfield@yahoo.com.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Talent, McCaskill agree to Sept. 15 forum

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Republican Senator Jim Talent and Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill have agreed to square off at a September 15th forum.

The 10:30 a.m. event at the Lake of the Ozarks is being hosted by the Missouri Press Association.

Talent and McCaskill also have agreed to appear together October 8th on NBC's "Meet the Press." The candidates are considering other debate proposals. State auditor candidates are to participate in their own press association forum immediately before the senators.

Here's the official announcement from the Missouri Press Association:
Missouri Press Association
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- Aug. 15, 2006
From: Missouri Press Association, 802 Locust St., Columbia, MO 65201
Phone: 573-449-4167
Contact: Doug Crews, executive director


Missouri Press Association will host a candidates' forum Sept. 15 featuring U.S. Sen. Jim Talent (R) and State Auditor Claire McCaskill (D) in a race receiving nationwide attention.
The MPA forum represents a warm-up for Senate candidates Talent and McCaskill, who are scheduled to appear on NBC's "Meet The Press" on Oct. 8.


"Our newspaper members are pleased the candidates will attend our convention and answer our questions about where they stand on the issues," said Steve Oldfield, president of MPA and publisher of The Adrian Journal. "We thank both the Talent and McCaskill campaigns for their cooperation in scheduling the appearances."

Talent and McCaskill will be on stage at the forum for U.S. Senate candidates, set for 10:30 a.m. Sept. 15 at The Lodge of Four Seasons, Lake Ozark, in conjunction with the Press Association's 140th Annual Convention. Missouri state auditor candidates have been invited to participate in a 9:15 a.m. session, prior to the Senate forum. Libertarian candidates on the ballot have been invited to participate in both forums.

David Lieb, Jefferson City correspondent for The Associated Press, will serve as moderator for both sessions.

MPA, representing more than 300 newspapers in the state, has hosted forums for statewide candidates at its annual conventions since 1988.


Comments submitted to MPA by the Senate campaigns offer a preview of the Sept. 15 session.
"I always look forward to meeting with Missouri's editors and publishers at these forums and in my travels around the state," Sen. Talent said. "We have tough, but fair newspaper men and women in Missouri. Missouri Press Association members ask the tough questions because they recognize their responsibility as opinion leaders in our communities. I appreciate this invitation to discuss my record of changing Washington and making it work for Missouri's common sense,
conservative values," he said.


State Auditor McCaskill noted, "For years, the Missouri Press Association and its member newspapers have kept Missourians informed about issues important to their families and communities, so I am honored to have the opportunity to share my views with the MPA membership and newspaper readers all across our great state.

"Campaigns should offer voters clear choices, and I am sure that Sen. Talent and I will highlight where we differ on specific issues. But I am also sure that we can agree to the importance of sharing those views with the voters and the role Missouri's newspapers play in making that happen," she said.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Young Republicans to Poll Stem Cells, Minimum Wage

The Missouri Young Republicans will hold an online and real-time straw poll on minimum wage and stem cell research this week at the state fair in Sedalia, Mo.

The poll will be conducted in conjunction with the group's annual convention and statewide officer elections.

“The stem cell and the minimum wage raise issues have been drawing, and will continue to draw, attention from the voting public,” said State Chairman Gus Wagner. “While the Young Republicans will not take a position on either topic, we are more than happy to provide one of the first venues for Missourians to voice their early opinions.”

By visiting the Missouri Young Republicans website, www.missouriyr.com, a yes or no vote can be cast on the two ballot issues. Voting will begin Monday, August 13, and run through Saturday, August 19th.

A live straw poll on the issues will also take place at the convention meeting on August 19. Results for the two polls will be announced at the conclusion of the convention meeting.

AP/Ipsos Poll Offers Sobering Numbers for G.O.P.

A new AP/Ipsos poll pegs President Bush's approval rating at 33%. Here's why it matters to G.O.P. candidates around the country:

"More sobering for the GOP are the number of voters who backed Bush in 2004 who are ready to vote Democratic in the fall's congressional elections -- 19 percent. These one-time Bush voters are more likely to be female, self-described moderates, low- to middle-income and from the Northeast and Midwest," writes Donna Cassata of the Associated Press.

Republicans responded by noting it is only August, and that while late summer polls have typically been filled with bad news for the President, eventually things turn around.

Cassata adds, "But fewer than 100 days before the Nov. 7 election, the AP-Ipsos poll suggested the midterms are clearly turning into a national referendum on Bush."

On The McLaughlin Group this weekend, conservative Tony Blankley of the Washington Times predicted that if Bush's approval rating is below 35% come election day, it will be a tidal wave for Democrats. But Blankley said if Bush sits in the 40s in November, it won't be.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Thomas Campaign: "Montee Will Be A Mini-McCaskill"

What are the major distinctions in the State Auditor race as far as the Sandra Thomas campaign is concerned?

Thomas campaign manager Ryan Johnson says basic political philosophy will be key. "I think you will notice distinct difference in their basic political philosophy. For instance, Sandra Thomas is a fiscal and social conservative whereas Ms. Montee is much more liberal on fiscal and social issues," Johnson said.

Johnson also points to experience and awards. "Thomas has nearly 12 years of experience as a County Auditor. Montee is just finishing her first full term. Thomas has received nine consecutive national awards for her performance in her office. Montee has zero. Thomas has served in all the leadership roles in the Missouri Association of County Auditors. Montee has not. Thomas was named the Outstanding CPA in Government by her peers in the Missouri Society of CPAs (MSCPA). Montee was not. Thomas is supported by CPAs from around the state. Montee is supported by trial lawyers and labor unions," Johnson said.

"Ms. Montee in my opinion will be a mini-McCaskill that spends more time on political grandstanding than pursuing the duties of the office," Johnson added.

Montee, Thomas Differ On Minimum Wage

Democratic State Auditor candidate Susan Montee called on Republican Sandra Thomas Saturday to support a constitutional measure to raise the state's minimum wage.

The ballot measure would raise Missouri's minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $6.50 over the next two years, with annual increases to keep up with inflation.

The Thomas campaign responded by saying a minimum wage hike would set the state back.

“More Missourians are employed by small business than any other entity. It is nonsense for liberals to endorse a ballot initiative that will only lead to higher unemployment and hurt working families and small business owners” said Thomas. “Common sense tells us that business owners only hire employees if they think it will help their business. If government requires small business to pay certain workers more the effect will be that some will lose their jobs. This is wrong and it only hurts working families.”

"The State Auditor is the top advocate for the state's economic health and should state a position on issues that affect it,"Montee said. "Missouri can only be financially healthy if working families are financially healthy. Raising the minimum wage is essential to meeting the needs of Missouri's working families and the state as a whole."

Thomas said she's a fiscal conservative and that a minimum wage hike would hurt Missouri's economy. “I’m pro-business because that is where the jobs are,” said Thomas. “We need common sense public policy that supports and encourages small business and working families, not more political pandering.”

Montee cited a fiscal impact statement, prepared by the State Auditor's office. "While the statement referenced potential for job losses and decreased business investment as a result of the wage increase, it also projects $21.4 million in new consumer spending. It estimates the proposed minimum wage increase will generate an additional $3.3 million to $4.3 million annually in state tax revenues," according to the Montee release.

Quotables from Primary Day

Sure, they're leftovers. But they're still juicy and relevant to the campaign ahead. Here are some quotes from candidates and other politicos during my coverage on election day . . .

And yes, while I got to catch up with Senator Talent in Springfield, I was assigned at Democratic Party Headquarters for the night. So that's why there are more quotes from donkeys.

Sen. Jim Talent On Whether He Voted for the Soil & Water Tax:
"I'm not offering observations about how I vote on state ballot issues. I've certainly been a strong supporter on conservation in my federal role."

Sen. Talent on the Number of Debates and whether he'll do one on KY3:
"I dunno, 4,5,6. We need debates. I want that. I'd love to do one in Springfield but I'm not going to tick off everyone else," Talent said. "I'd love to have you on that panel, Dave," added the junior senator with a laugh.

Sen. Talent on why he's not worried his race is close:
"It's Missouri. Those of us who are from here, this is the way statewide races are. When isn't it close? The last few Governor's races, Senate races. Missouri's a battleground state. That's because of the nature of Missouri politics rather than the national climate, so I tell them in Washington, just cool it. That's the way Missouri politics is."

Greene Co. Democratic Chair Craig Hosmer on Sen. Talent:
"Jim Talent's not a bad person, but he's not a good Senator. The important thing in this race is not the margin. It's that Jim Talent, as an incumbent has 42% of the vote. That's an embarrassment."

Claire McCaskill on why she'll spend lots of time in Springfield:
"They can call me Satan's sister and if I'm not down here saying I'm not, by gosh, somebody might believe it. And you know, that's going to start. The nastiness will start because we're doing so well."

State Senate Candidate Doug Harpool (D) on Fee Offices:
"The Republicans have decided the right thing to do is to reward the political contributors, and that $500,000 of taxpayer money is now being planted annually into the pocket of Roy Blunt's chief fundraiser. The people of Greene County, the people of this city oughta stand up and yell outrage. I'm ready to yell outrage."

#135th Legislative Candidate Nancy Hagan (D) on Vouchers:
"We have the biggest fight on our hands, as far as school vouchers are concerned. We have to stop it. It is the undermining of public education in America. The Republicans are on target to get their goals accomplished and we have to stop it."

#137th Legislative Candidate Charlie Norr (D) on his opponent:
"The man running for the Republicans in the #137th has no logo on his yard signs, he doesn't advertise what party he is."

#139th Legislative Candidate Jamie Schoolcraft (D) on Family Values:
"The Republicans try to steal Christianity. That's not the case. Compassion is the key to Christianity. That's how I was raised. I'm guessing if Jesus was here today, he wouldn't spend his time with Abramoff."

Claire McCaskill on the Lieberman loss to Ned Lamont and sentiment on the war:
"It says something about the people of Connecticut but I'm not sure you can draw any other conclusion about it. My position on all these issues has to do with Missouri. It doesn't have to do with Connecticut or any other state in the union."

McCaskill on whether on going to War was worth it:
"I think it was right to take out Saddam Hussein. I think it was wrong to not have a plan, to not execute it well. And now we need to begin to redeploy (over time, not immediately) those soldiers into other areas to deal with these hotspots."

One Democrat on the G.O.P. Auditor's Race:
"I'm glad it is not Jack Jackson. He would've caused some problems for us, especially in southwest Missouri where some good ole boys still have problems voting for a woman."

Another Democrat on the G.O.P. Legislative Results in Springfield:
"It will be interesting to see where all these Republican votes go, who voted against incumbents. Do most fall in line with the incumbents or do we have a shot at them? If we have a shot at them, we're in good shape. If not, we don't have a chance."


Montee Says She's More Qualified; Thomas Campaign Calls Montee An "Ambulance Chaser"

The Democratic nominee for State Auditor swooped through southwest Missouri Friday, meeting with the local party faithful in Joplin and Springfield. She also took time out to sit down with me for an interview on her race with Republican candidate Sandra Thomas. The main points were made in my story last night, but here's the entire interview for you to judge.

Montee believes she's more qualified than Thomas for the job because she's not only a certified public accountant, but a lawyer that could better handle performance audits. "I wouldn't make wholesale changes to the office, I believe it's running well," Montee said.

Montee said she would tackle the license fee office issue head-on, by trying to determine if the current system is the most efficient way to award the offices. "We can't even tell the effect because we're not able to get all the information," Montee said. "I think the first thing we do is call for open access to the books."

She wouldn't commit to mandating non-profits running the offices, but sounded very favorable towards the idea. "I think a plan that would let the county governments and the non-profits, might be a really good plan, really helpful to communities," Montee said.

Montee said she will be more independent than Thomas. "I believe that Sandra Thomas is tied to the Blunt administration very heavily. Her campaign manager came out of the Governor's staff. She has lots of ties to this administration and she will be dependent on those ties to get elected, which means she could not be independent after she's elected," Montee said.

She believes it would be difficult for Thomas to look into issues that would be "embarrassing or a problem to the Blunt administration."

"The literature being put out, the fundraising letter said we need to put Sandra Thomas in there, so we don't have people like Claire McCaskill troubling the Governor. The statements that have been made on her behalf as part of what Governor Blunt needs to keep running the operation is the problem. It isn't because she's a Republican."

Thomas said the auditor does not necessarily have to be from the opposing party in power. "I would not say that . . . That's not fair. I think it's beyond party politics."

Montee said she wouldn't necessarily be tougher on the Blunt administration. "There are times when you work together with the administration and there are times you have to stand up against the administration. If you have close ties, when the time comes to stand up against the administration, it'll be very, very difficult to do that."

When I asked Montee about the $195,000 in missing money from Platte County , she said the auditor is ultimately responsible. "If that would've happened in my county, we would've known because every month we go to the Treasurer, and we reconcile it. In my county, I would've been accountable for this if it had happened."

Montee also pledged to put more focus on the judicial system, where she said similar problems to the financial scandal in Springfield had come to light in the St. Joseph area. "I think part of it is identifying the high risk areas and certainly the courts are high risk areas, so maybe a little more attention should be paid to courts."

When I asked Montee why people in southwest Missouri should support her, when Thomas did so well here, she said "overall managerial experience."

"I have roots in southwest Missouri, I lived here, went to Drury. Down here, I think people voted for Sandra because of her qualifications and if they look at the qualifications in this race, they will vote for me. I have a broader range of accounting experience, I've worked with one of the largest firms in the country, had a solo practice and ran my own business. Sandra Thomas has been an auditor in Platte County for 12 years. That's not as much broad-range experience."

I called both Sandra Thomas and her campaign manager Ryan Johnson for a response to these charges and claims being hurled by Montee. Johnson called me back and said he preferred to respond through e-mail, rather than question by question. I wrote up a summary of things Montee said and got this response last night from the Johnson:

"Saying an Ambulance Chaser is some how better qualified than an award winning auditor is ridiculous. Besides, an 88 day out political attack from a liberal democrat operative is hardly the way to demonstrate who will best be able to shine the light on waste, fraud, and abuse. She clearly lacks credibility since her statement regarding Sandra Thomas' campaign manager working for Governor Blunt's staff is a lie. He has never worked a day in his life for either of the Blunts political or official organizations. Montee needs to get her facts straight and stop her self serving political attacks."

For the record, I have an open invitation to the Thomas campaign to do a similar sit-down interview with me the next time they are in the area.

Sandra Thomas vs. Susan Montee

Assuming Sandra Thomas survives the G.O.P. primary recount, she'll face Democrat Susan Montee this November in what's expected to be a overshadowed but tight race for state auditor.
Here's my Friday night report on the match-up.

My initial analysis foresees this race focusing on three big issues, at least in the beginning . . .

*Experience
*Independence
*Missing Money

More on my one-on-one interview with Susan Montee to come.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Talent Criticizes Bush On Ag Policy

From the Associated Press Friday afternoon:

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Senator Jim Talent criticizes the Bush administration as unfriendly toward agriculture. Talent took issue today with the president's promised veto of four (b) billion dollars in disaster aid for farmers and ranchers. He also criticized an administration proposal to close Farm Service Agency offices, its agricultural trade policies and its management of the Missouri River.

Talent says the Bush administration has been indifferent to agriculture. He made his remarks during an endorsement pitch to members of the Missouri Farm Bureau. McCaskill turned down an invitation to speak to the group, claiming it rarely backs Democrats.

As Talent distances himself from the Bush administration, McCaskill's campaign accused the Missouri Farm Bureau of trying to make their candidate look bad.

"It is incredibly disappointing that the Missouri Farm Bureau would take advantage of Claire like this," Adrianne Marsh, McCaskill's spokeswoman said. "They haven't endorsed a Democrat for statewide office for as long as most of us can remember. Attending this event would be like Claire meeting with the Missouri Republican Party for their endorsement."

Marsh continued, "Claire has been talking for weeks about her plan to fight on the side of Missouri's family farms in the 2007 Farm Bill. All in all, the only agricultural endorsement Claire is really concerned about earning is the endorsement of our family and independent farmers."

An Open Letter from the Jackson Campaign

Jack Jackson's campaign manager sent me a letter this morning regarding the recount in the auditor's race and the campaign ahead.

Here it is in its entirety:

"While Jack Jackson is not yet ready to concede defeat, we on the campaign are all well aware that the chance of a possible recount making a difference in the outcome is extremely slim, however considering that this is one of the narrowest margins in Republican Primary Election history we think that retaining the option to request a recount is more than reasonable. Unfortunately it also means the Thomas Campaign is hampered by the lack of a final result. It is not our intent to be difficult or obstructive, but under these circumstances (a difference of just 6/10s of 1 percent) even our opponents agree that reserving the right to call for a recount seems to be the proper course of action."

"We hope the entire process will take only a matter of weeks from the end of the preliminary vote count which concluded Wednesday afternoon. No matter which way the final results go I want to say personally how much I respect Sandra Thomas for her unrelenting persistence on the campaign trail. She is a determined professional and maturing politician who has already made considerable personal sacrifices by being away from her home and family. She is wise to accept and follow the guidance and assistance she receives from powerful political entities who are using their considerable influences to help make her campaign a success. "

"I would like to thank Senator John Loudon for making Jack Jackson a better candidate, we could never let up for a moment with John campaigning around the clock using every available means to attempt to gain an upper hand. We have not seen the last of John Loudon, there will be more victories for him and with the help of Gina and his family (especially Lilly who will be Governor some day!) he will be a force in Missouri Politics for many years to come."

"I admire Mark Wright for his ambition and friendliness, he never had a cross word and was always the first to smile, shake my hand and say hello. The people of Springfield should be proud of his independent spirit and fearlessness to speak his mind no matter what the cost."

"As for my volunteers and campaign staff, I couldn't be prouder of the way we conducted ourselves. We ran a clean campaign and I don't think it is possible that anyone worked harder than we did. Phil Eckelkamp, Michelle Cote, Sherri Shumard, Adam Bitley, Jamie Kim and Josh Foster would be valuable additions to other campaigns if the possible recount ultimately ends ours. I am extremely satisfied by the overwhelming margin of victory we achieved in St. Louis and St. Charles Counties."

"If this had this been a two candidate race instead of five I have little doubt we would have had a substantial win statewide. I have no regrets and know that God has a plan for all of us, and unless a recount shows differently, winning this election apparently isn't part of that plan."

"As for Colonel Jack Jackson, I have never known a more honorable man. He is as tough, courageous and independent as he is humble, dedicated and kind. I work for him because Missouri and the United States need more people like Jack Jackson in Government. It is a very rare opportunity that we have the chance to vote for a person of the caliber of Colonel Jack Jackson. It is my honor and privilege to serve under his command and I hope a recount, if ultimately requested, gives me the opportunity to continue in that service."

Paul Brown
Campaign Manager
Colonel Jack Jackson for State Auditor


I will sit down with the Democratic nominee for state auditor Susan Montee this afternoon for an interview on the general election ahead.

Blunt: Minimum wage boost would harm economy

From the A.P. Friday morning:

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Governor Blunt comes out in opposition to a ballot measure boosting Missouri's minimum wage.

The November proposal would raise the $5.15 minimum wage to $6.50 in Missouri. And it would go up each year after that to keep pace with inflation.

Blunt says the ballot measure would be "harmful to job growth and economic development in the state."

The governor has been running ads touting almost 45,000 new jobs in Missouri. He says that raising Missouri's minimum wage above the federal level would make it more difficult to attract businesses to the state.

Supporters say a high minimum wage would lead to more consumer spending and more state tax revenues.

FYI, using blue book numbers, Blunt makes $57.73 an hour. ($120,087 / 40 / 52)

Talent Campaign Notes McCaskill's "Poor Rural Performance"

In an e-mail to supporters, Senator Jim Talent's campaign says Claire McCaskill's rural strategy "isn't fooling voters," pointing to the auditor's primary day vote totals in southwest Missouri.

"Claire McCaskill looked a little silly on Wednesday after she bragged to the press on Election Day that she would receive more votes than Jim Talent," wrote campaign manager Greg Keller. "With your vote and your support, Jim Talent received more votes than Claire McCaskill."

Keller then rolled out some rural numbers from Tuesday's primary:

"Her results were particularly poor in rural Missouri: in 19 counties her unknown opponent garnered 30 percent of the Democrat vote or better. In these areas and others, Republicans and Democrats alike have recognized that Claire McCaskill doesn't believe in the common sense, conservative values of the heartland," Keller wrote.

Click here to watch Senator Talent's latest ad on sickle cell treatment.

G.O.P. to Force McCaskill to Choose Between Lamont and Lieberman

National Republicans believe they can capitalize on anti-war candidate Ned Lamont's upset victory over Sen. Joe Lieberman Tuesday by forcing Democratic candidates across the country to say who they support in November.

That's according to Time's Mike Allen in an online piece.

"One of the nip-and-tuck Senate races this year is in Missouri, and backers of Sen. Jim Talent are preparing an attack on his opponent, State Auditor Claire McCaskill, that is emblematic of the sort that will be seen all over the country within 24 hours. "Does Claire McCaskill support the wishes of the angry left by endorsing Ned Lamont's candidacy or will she support the man who was chosen by Al Gore as the Democrat's 2000 nominee for Vice President?" the National Republican Senatorial Committee asks in a statement that will force McCaskill to talk about messy party business instead of her favored issues of government accountability and affordable health care. The NRSC blasted similar releases into 10 states," Allen writes.

Lamont bested Lieberman in Connecticut's U.S. Senate Democratic primary Tuesday. Lieberman now says he'll run as an independent in November. We asked McCaskill who she supported before the results rolled in, and she declined to answer. Will she now answer the question up front and get it out of the way?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Fluharty To Run As "Write-In Conservative" in 137th

Chris Fluharty is announcing he will run as a write-in candidate in the 137th legislative district because of the lack of "real conservative choice," this coming November.

In a press release, Fluharty writes, "his candidacy should be seen as viable because he is by far the most experienced candidate for election."

"There are no conservative candidates on the ballot. Dan Scott has been quiet on everything but his roots in the district, and those roots won't get things done in Jefferson City," Fluharty says.

Fluharty says as a former legislative aide, he knows the inner-workings of Jefferson City better than Scott. He says he also expects the endorsements of conservative groups like Missouri Right to Life and Concerned Women for America, because of "Dan's weak stance on stem cell research."

"If these groups hold true to their values, they will see that Chris Fluharty is the only pro-life and pro-family candidate," Fluharty says.

Fluharty says he has a website up at www.missourians4fluharty.tripod.com, but we couldn't load it.

Dan Scott won the G.O.P. nomination for the 137th. Scott will face Democrat Charlie Norr for Rep. Mark Wright's seat in November.

Platte County's Financial "Train Wreck" and the Role of Sandra Thomas

The editor of a Platte County newspaper is raising questions about the Republican candidate for state auditor's role in $195,000 in missing funds.

"The Landmark" editor Ivan Foley says Sandra Thomas is trying to take public attention away from "a train wreck in Platte County's bookkeeping."

He called a recent Thomas release on the issue "ridiculous."

Foley elaborates:

"I'm sure you've seen those movies where cops are standing by the scene of a major catastrophe and are trying to clear passersby from the area by saying: 'Move along, folks, move along. There's nothing to see here.' That's basically what Thomas' email said, or at least tried to say. One would have to be pretty naive to fully consume the goods being spewed by Thomas and county treasurer Bonnie Brown in that press release. It was an attempt to try to take public attention away from the train wreck that has occurred in Platte County's bookkeeping ledger while Thomas closed out the final days of a campaign for the Republican nomination for state auditor. Strangely, Thomas has gone from first denying any involvement or knowledge of the screw-up to suddenly trying to claim she rode in on a great white horse, found the discrepancies, checked the oil, kicked the tires, shook hands, kissed babies, and saved the world."

Thomas has said the money isn't really missing, and that this is all about an accounting error. She has blamed the treasurer, for not disclosing the errors sooner. Foley makes the case that that isn't the point.

"No money was missing? Again, this is semantics, as we've discussed previously in this column space. When for 10 months you can't account for $195,000, you have "missing" money that needs to be accounted for. That doesn't necessarily mean anything was stolen, and no media outlet to my knowledge said the money was stolen or that there was any wrongdoing of any type. What has been said in this column space all along is that there are legitimate questions of competency and of disclosure," Foley writes.

"The county commission had to hire an external auditor to take care of a process that should have been completed in-house by county officials."

If Thomas survives a recount requested by Jack Jackson, she will face Democrat Susan Montee for state auditor this November.

TruthWatch: McCaskill Radio Ad

Claire McCaskill has begun running a radio ad the Talent campaign calls negative.

Here's the transcript:

An important message from Darlene Green:

Darlene Greene is the city of St. Louis comptroller. She's been called a rising star in the Democratic party.

Republican Senator Jim Talent says he’s about the people, not about the politics. But Talent does not vote to help everyday people.
People need access to quality healthcare… access to affordable housing..
People need to have affordable transportation to get to work without paying $3 a gallon.
People need to have a livable wage but the Republicans like Jim Talent have voted against raising the minimum wage again and again.

Democrats have hammered Talent on voting against raising the minimum wage multiple times. But this ad doesn't tell you Talent voted twice last year in support of a wage increase that is tied to tax relief for small businesses. Talent says he's taken no position on the just-approved statewide vote on raising the minimum wage.

People need a medical cure for diseases like sickle cell, cancer and diabetes.
But the Republicans like Jim Talent are against stem cell research.

Talent has come out against the November statewide measure that would protect embryonic stem cell research in Missouri.


People, I urge you to make your vote count.
It’s time to change the tide in Washington and vote for a senator who will be about the people and the issues you care about.
Vote Claire McCaskill for U.S. Senate .

Talent's people have called this ad the first negative shot fired in the campaign. The quote from Tiffany Watkins, deputy campaign manager: "What this shows is that Claire McCaskill doesn’t have a record of her own to discuss with black voters, so she attacks a person who has effectively championed issues that are important to Missouri’s African-American community."

We caught up with McCaskill Tuesday night and asked her about the ad. She "absolutely" stands by it.

"It's just his record. He got an F on the NAACP report card. It just basically tells about some of his votes while he's been senator and pointing out that it's not what you promise, it's what you do," McCaskill said.

This appears to be all about courting African-American voters. The Kansas City Star has some great numbers about why those votes are so important to both candidates.

Primary Totals: Do They Matter?

In the last four U.S. Senate primaries in Missouri, the candidate who won the most votes in August only went on to win in November half of the time.

In 1998, Sen. Kit Bond won about 13,000 more votes than Democrat Jay Nixon in August, and then sailed to a 53%-44% victory in November. In 2002, Jim Talent won almost 28,000 more votes than Sen. Jean Carnahan in August, and then just edged her out in November 50%-49%.

To the contrary, in 2000, John Ashcroft won 3,600 more votes than Mel Carnahan primary day, but in November Carnahan prevailed (obviously under extraordinary circumstances) 51%-48%. In 2004, Nancy Farmer won almost 3,000 more votes than Sen. Kit Bond on primary day. But again, Bond easily cruised in November 56%-43%.

NY Times Op-Ed Slams Voter ID Law; Says It Could Make Difference in U.S. Senate Race

The New York Times lead editorial Thursday slams Missouri's new voter ID law, and says it could make the difference in the hotly contested U.S. Senate race.

"Missouri is the latest front in the Republican Party’s campaign to use photo ID requirements to suppress voting. The Republican legislators who pushed through Missouri’s ID law earlier this year said they wanted to deter fraud, but that claim falls apart on close inspection," the Times opines.

The piece goes on to say that Missouri's new ID rules are "intended to deter voting by blacks, poor people and other groups that are less likely to have driver's licenses."

"The new law requires a government-issued photo ID, which as many as 200,000 Missourians do not have. Missourians who have driver’s licenses will have little trouble voting, but many who do not will have to go to considerable trouble to get special ID’s. The supporting documents needed to get these, like birth certificates, often have fees attached, so some Missourians will have to pay to keep voting. It is likely that many people will not jump all of the bureaucratic hurdles to get the special ID, and will become ineligible to vote.Not coincidentally, groups that are more likely to vote against the Republicans who passed the ID law will be most disadvantaged. Advocates for blacks, the elderly and the disabled say that those groups are less likely than the average Missourian to have driver’s licenses, and most likely to lose their right to vote. In close elections, like the bitterly contested U.S. Senate race now under way in the state, this disenfranchisement could easily make the difference in who wins," the Times writes.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Jackson Campaign Manager: The Votes Probably Aren't There

Colonel Jack Jackson's campaign manager tells the KY3 Political Blog the votes are probably not there to overtake Sandra Thomas in the down-to-the-wire Republican state auditor primary.

Paul Brown predicted that when all the votes are counted, this will be one of the tightest Republican primary races in Missouri history. But most likely, Jackson will fall just short of Thomas.

"Jack Jackson is not surrendering this race. We won't do that until all the votes are counted, and we may not concede until there is a recount, but I'm pretty confident there's not enough votes still out there to win this thing," Brown told me.

With just 17 precincts left to be counted, Jackson trails Thomas by 1,799 votes, or about half a percentage point.

"We expect to pick up another 600 to 700 votes in precincts in St. Louis county. This race could finish less than 1,000 votes apart," Brown said.

"We will ask for a recount. We don't think it is unreasonable because this will be one of the closest races in history. We're not trying to be difficult. We realize it's a longshot, but in order to keep our conscious clear, we feel it is reasonable," Brown added.

Brown said the difference in this race turned out to be the ability of Thomas to get her political backers to turn out the vote, especially in southwest Missouri. "In Jasper County, there was a 3,000 vote margin. She had a clearly coordinated effort in southwest Missouri. That was absolutely the difference," Brown said.

"She ran a good, hard race," Brown said. "We ran a good, hard race. We just lost by a nose at the wire. It would be a photo finish in a horse race. We were closing, closing, closing, and she had just enough."

More Election coverage

Here's KSMU's take on local races Tuesday night.

Cardetti: Don't Read Too Much Into Results

The spokesman for the Missouri Democratic Party says the fact that Jim Talent netted more votes than Claire McCaskill last night doesn't mean anything about her chances this November.

As of 10 a.m. Wed:

Talent 289,173
McCaskill 281,785

*Difference of 7,388 votes

"You and I both know, these primary numbers don't mean a thing," Cardetti called to tell me after seeing my overview of the races. "Local issues drive whether or not people make a Republican or Democratic ballot. Republicans had more contested races."

"If you are questioning why Claire only got 80% of the vote, you should question why Roy Blunt only got 79% of the vote," Cardetti said. I noted that while Blunt had three opponents, McCaskill only had one. Cardetti responded that I was reading too much into nothing. Could be.

So does it mean anything that Talent netted about 7,000 more votes than McCaskill statewide?
Nope, according to Cardetti. "Republicans had a very contested state auditor's race, they had very competitive state rep races in southwest Missouri. Trying to compare her numbers to his numbers is like apples and oranges. You just can't compare. It doesn't mean anything," Cardetti said.

"In these blowouts, the difference between getting 80% and 85% generally doesn't mean anything," he added.

Overall, no surprises for Cardetti statewide, besides the fact that there is a lot of division between Republicans in the state auditor's race. He also said the state party was watching the #139th G.O.P primary closely last night, "because we have such a great candidate in Jamie Schoolcraft down there."