Friday, February 08, 2008

AFTERMATH: Kinder's Decision

Was Kinder Pushed?
Will Steelman Fight Through The Primary?
What Happens To Jack Jackson?
What Can We Believe?
Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder knew he wasn't running for Governor anymore when he spoke with KY3 News Friday about his candidacy. But he played candidate anyway in order to preserve his announcement for the appropriate time later that evening.

"I put out a statement, that's all I'm saying to the media," Kinder said, seemingly agitated at the question I asked him at an after-party at University Plaza Hotel Friday night. "Things were in the works when I talked to you. You wanted the interview, so we did it. But the announcement had to come at the appropriate place and time."

You can watch that moment HERE.

That time was around 7 p.m. When I got a call from a Republican "to better get down to Unversity Plaza -- Kinder's about to make an announcement," I knew he must be pulling the plug on his three week old campaign. But why?

"He was smart to get out of a race he couldn't win, and go for a race he could," one Springfield Republican told me afterwards. "I don't know if he was pushed, but he was probably talked to and nudged," said the G.O.P. insider.

Still, it was shock and awe all over again. "It is not about me," Kinder said in his speech to the ballroom full of Republican loyalists'. "It's about the cause you and I share."

"I will nonetheless stand down from the Governor's race here tonight," Kinder said. Some of his supporters with TeamKinder stickers on their shirts openly wept. Jack Jackson looked liked someone shot his dog.

The Republican race for Governor had changed yet again. And apparently, so did the race for Lieutenant Governor.

It's clear the Republicans don't want a primary, so are they looking for another casualty? If so, the party apparatus, the establishment, will try to make it Sarah Steelman. Steelman sat at the same table with U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof tonight. And talk to her boosters, and they say she'll be fighting Hulshof for the nomination to the bitter end. "We saw a path to her victory in a 3-way race, and we see it in a 2-way race," said one Steelman adviser. "Hulshof's been in Washington. It's a mess there, they've had runaway spending. People don't trust it anymore. Plus, Hulshof has no name I.D. down here," said the adviser, referring to southwest Missouri.

"She won't get out," said the Steelman supporter. "She sees a path to victory."

"All I'm hearing is Hulshof, Hulshof, Hulshof," said one Republican State Representative. "The party buzz is with Hulshof. Kinder saw the writing one the wall," he said.

"But I think he gets a lot of good will from the party for doing that," he added.

One Republican who is privately backing Hulshof said she liked both candidates for Governor but believes it Hulshof's to lose. "He's very talented and well respected. She's got potential. If the same thing happens to her as it did to Kinder, it won't be the end of her," said this Springfield Republican.

But yet another unaflliated Republican reminded me of Steelman's maverick appeal outside the party base. "She's not the most polished speaker. But she's a great campaigner. Sure, ask southwest Missouri Republicans and they'll go with Hulshof, but go to St. Joe and it's Steelman. She's got support out there, and name recognition."

As for Jack Jackson's candidacy, it goes on . . . for now.

"That's got to be tough for him, but that's the way this stuff goes," said a Republican elected official. "It's a wacky year."

That's an understatement.

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