The KY3 Political Notebook's Take on Tuesday's Winners & Losers
TUESDAY'S FIVE BIG WINNERS
1. Team Nixon -- From top to bottom, their well-oiled machine was organized, disciplined and focused. Nixon consolidated Democratic Party support early enough to deter any primary challenges (even after Blunt surprisingly bowed out.) He spent weekends barnstorming small, rural obscure parts of the state and ended up altering Missouri's political map to give future Democrats hope. His political team was sophisticated, cautious and tough (when necessary). They framed a centrist message for a purple state. Nixon kept his cool and avoided gaffes. Now comes the hard part: Can they do the same while governing?
2. Ballot Initiatives -- 2 constitutional amendments and three statewide propositions passed easily. And most people still can't explain the ins-and-outs of half of them! Quite a feat. Even the controversial Non-Partisan Court plan in Greene County got the nod from voters. This all raises the question. Why have a legislature? Just put 20 substantial initiatives on the ballot each year for the people decide.
3. Peter Kinder -- He was able to dive through the Democratic wave in Missouri to survive the tide as the only statewide elected Republican. Nine months ago, Kinder was pushed aside as a candidate for Governor. The party delivered him resources in return, but he also proved his political metal on his own -- and may have left some wondering if he would have been the best candidate to challenge Nixon. Some people think the position of Lieutenant Governor is worthless, but Kinder has the opportunity to use it as a check on Nixon's mandate. There's an advantage to being the last voice left. You can become the G.O.P. go-to guy for high-profile responses (Think State of the State.)
4. Pollsters -- They were RIGHT! We are so tough on pollsters when they're wrong, but this year a lot of the major polls I browsed ended up turning out to be good predictors. Nixon really did have a double-digit lead over Hulshof. McCain and Obama were really, really close in Missouri. Rasmussen's final national presidential poll gave Obama 52%, McCain 46%. That's exactly how it turned out. The final Reuters/Zogby poll in Missouri had Obama and McCain deadlocked at 49%. Let's tip our hats to those number-crunchers we so-often kick around.
5. Chris Koster -- A year ago he was a turncoat. Now he's Attorney General-elect. When Koster abandoned his party last summer (or did it leave him?), he seemingly faced an uphill battle in a 3-way primary for Attorney General. How could he win over Dem loyalists in a year when his decision looked purely political. I'm still not completely sure, but I think it has something to do with his good looks, smooth (or slick?) confidence and commanding presence. Even his ex-wife couldn't take this man down. And oooh, ahhh, those ads. Doubt his political ambitions stop there.
TUESDAY'S FIVE BIG LOSERS
1. Blunt Inc. -- Gov. Matt Blunt's decision not to seek re-election (for WHATEVER reason) left the Missouri G.O.P. scrambling. He gave virtually no one a heads-up. Barring some surprise (or a known unknown), it's hard to believe he wouldn't have given Nixon a stronger challenge than Kenny Hulshof did. Now, his father is stepping down as Whip and the rumors are rampant about whether this will be Roy's final Congressional term. Did Roy Blunt also lose political clout by backing Kenny Hulshof, who lost the 7th District in the primary and got trounced in the general? Is the Blunt power-base on its way out -- or is there a comeback in store?
2. Sam Page -- The only statewide Democrat to fall short. To be fair, Page was up against an incumbent Republican, so his task was tougher, but he seemed to be virtually unknown in southwest Missouri. Peter Kinder was certainly vulnerable in this tough environment, but politicos believe that Kinder just outworked the doctor. Where was the spark? Sometimes which candidate seems to want it more, matters.
3. John Ashcroft -- The former U.S. Attorney General and conservative rockstar popped up on Ozarks televisions right at the end of this campaign to instruct residents to vote against the Non-Partisan Court plan. It didn't work. They ignored him. Despite being outspent, proponents of the Court plan prevailed. They beat the odds, and surprised the political class -- all while bucking one of their hometown favorites.
4. Nancy Hagan & Nick Beatty -- The two best hopes for Democratic House pick-ups in Springfield fell far short, and that's not because they didn't work hard. It simply may be that the #135th and #136th legislative district are permanent Republican seats. Both Hagan and Beatty worked the doors resiliently and seemed to have a visible presence in the community. But both lost by double digits -- Hagan by 12% and Beatty by 16%. That's got to sting and leave Democrats wondering if they can ever flip those districts.
5. John Hancock -- There's no question Kenny Hulshof's campaign manager believed in him. The early conversations I had with Hancock demonstrated to me that he was genuinely proud to work for the 9th District Congressman. Hancock also clearly believed that Nixon was vulnerable on several fronts. But it's even more clear now that the strategy that was developed didn't work. Some grumble there was never even a strategy. Hulshof "laid an egg," as one politico put it. It would have been hard for any Republican to take down Nixon this year, but many Republicans believe it's unacceptable that Hulshof wasn't within single digits.
< ---ON THE FENCE--- >
1. Claire McCaskill -- Sure, Obama won the thing handily, and McCaskill was his top warrior. But she failed to deliver the Show-Me-State to retain our bellwether status. That's got to pinch a bit. It's not fair to blame the junior Senator, but she surely would have gotten a heap of credit if he carried the state. So what's up, why couldn't Obama pull out Missouri, when he carried states like North Carolina, Indiana and Ohio? Some people are putting it bluntly: Missouri doesn't have as many black people. As for Claire, she still remains in a great political position. I'm guessing she's got Obama's cell number.
2. Sarah Steelman -- She proved herself to be a political force in the primary, but Sen. Kit Bond's recent reactions to inquiries about her future may not bode well if he remains the titular head of the Mo. G.O.P. Steelman's rubbed a lot of the establishment the wrong way, but that's central to her appeal. If she wants to run again for something (and all signs say she probably does), she'll probably have to go it alone again. Still, she's fortunate to have a loyal brand of supporters surrounding her that are just panting for the next opportunity.
3. Brad Lager -- Probably the best pure political statewide candidate that lost on Tuesday. The Notebook views Lager as part of the Missouri G.O.P's future. He's young, good-looking . . . a smooth-talker with a bit of a drawl -- and has the type of story conservatives just love. "He's got the stuff," says one. The tide was too much for him Tuesday, but he remains a State Senator to watch when the next opportunity surfaces.