But the candidate Nixon was referring to is not the one he'll face in November. Nixon was talking up the G.O.P's runner up, State Treasurer Sarah Steelman, whose tenacious campaign for Governor fell short Tuesday night to Congressman Kenny Hulshof.
In a midday conference call with reporters across the state Wednesday, Nixon declared that nearly 75 percent of Missourians voted Tuesday "to change the direction of the state." He's including the more than 175,000 Republicans who voted for Steelman.
"That's 175,000 . . . that voted against the Blunt-Bush agenda, and opposed the Republican hierarchy of the state," Nixon said, referring to the Steelman supporters.
The glowing portrayal of Steelman's candidacy did not stop there. If imitation is a form of flattery, then Steelman should be blushing over Nixon's political playbook. The Democratic nominee for Governor criticized Hulshof for making clear he'd bring "Washington priorities," back to the state. He rejected Hulshof's argument that he's a a change agent by being from outside of Jefferson City. He also criticized the hyperpartisan environment of Washington D.C.
"I do not accept that attempt to reframe himself. He's part of the Washington status quo," Nixon said, noting that Hulshof has voted with President Bush 90 percent of the time.
"It was Kenny Hulshof's decision to embrace the failed policies of Matt Blunt, that was his choice," Nixon went on. "He's the one who embraced the Matt Blunt healthcare cuts."
Republicans have criticized Nixon's proposal to reinstate all those who lost state Medicaid coverage back in 2005. They've compared it to a massive welfare program that would carry a large tax increase. Nixon said his top priority would be providing healthcare to all Missouri children, and added that he would accomplish it by drawing on federal funds which have been sent back to Washington as a result of the cuts.
When asked about his chances of getting through his healthcare plan through a Republican-dominated legislature, Nixon replied, "I don't accept that healthcare coverage is dead on arrival."
Nixon compliments of Steelman's campaign is clearly designed to undercut Hulshof's message within his own party and independent voters. "I think clearly some will come our way," Nixon said of the possibility of winning over Steelman supporters. "You bet I'm going to work for those voters."
"I think (Steelman) was clearly focused on fiscal responsibility and the value of Washington. He defended earmarks. Her message, was in essence, a message of change. It ultimately came very close but it was unsuccessful with the hierarchy of the Republican party," Nixon said.
He even lobbed a shot at 7th District Congressman Roy Blunt: "Roy Blunt and others embraced Kenny Hulshof down there . . . and they lost." (Steelman carried Greene County, and many other southwest Missouri counties.)
Nixon seemed to make a direct appeal to Steelman voters when he said this: "Her voters said no to the values of Washington and yes to Main Street, not K Street."
"She gained votes on . . . directly and appropriately questioning his fiscal responsibility," Nixon added.
It's almost unimaginable how different Nixon's rhetoric would be if Steelman actually pulled the race out. But despite all the numerous references to Washington, spending and Matt Blunt, Nixon acknowledged a close contest in the end.
"Missouri is a close state though, it always is," Nixon said. "It would not surprise me to see this race tighten."