Missouri is still a battleground state - for wacky campaigns
The Kansas City Star
So who wants to be a swing state, anyway?
Just because Barack Obama and Mitt Romney aren’t showing up to sample barbecue doesn’t mean we aren’t having an exciting election in Missouri.
We are the only state to have a U.S. Senate candidate disowned by much of his own party. The GOP establishment turned its back on Todd Akin after he volunteered that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant.
Another GOP Senate candidate, Richard Mourdock of Indiana, also got in trouble this week when speaking about rape-induced pregnancies. But he hasn’t yet received the deep freeze the way Akin did.
There is hope, though. Newt Gingrich is expected to deliver a speech at a luncheon event on the Plaza next week, with Akin and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — known nationally for his controversial legal work aimed an immigrant communities — as the special guests. Host for this event is Jack Cashill, an author who specializes in conspiracy theories.
The kerfuffle in Missouri, which has left Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in good position to be re-elected, is a fascinating look at what happens when a political party takes leave of its senses, which is what has been taking place in the Show-Me state’s GOP ranks for a number of years.
Basically, the party is eating its own. Internal power struggles and internecine rivalries abound, without a standard-bearer in sight. Hence, few outside of the political junkie crowd can easily name the Republican nominee who is challenging incumbent Democrat Jay Nixon for governor. Ask a group, as I did this week, and you’ll get blank looks and some close guesses.
Dave Spence, actually. The state GOP establishment embraced him (though never warmly) after Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder took himself out of the running amidst a mini-scandal over his visits to a bawdy nightclub.
Spence’s biggest asset is that he made a ton of money in his plastics manufacturing business and can finance his own campaign. His biggest headline-grabbing move so far was to sue Nixon, claiming his rival defamed him with negative campaign ads.
Among other transgressions, it seems the governor had the gall to call Spence “a banker,” when in fact he was just a member of a bank’s board of directors.
Other than making Spence seem like a first-rate whiner, the lawsuit has the regrettable effect of taking the zing out of one of the candidate’s best campaign lines.
In calling for “tort reform,” Spence likes to opine that Missouri is “now called the Sue-Me-State, not the Show-Me State.”
When one of your campaign planks is complaining about too many lawsuits, it is downright strange to turn around and file a frivolous one.
Missouri may have lost its sheen as a predictor of presidential winners after it went for John McCain in 2008, but in some respects it is still the bellwether state.
The New York Time recently ran a story about St. Louis multimillionaire Rex Sinquefield, who drops campaign cash on candidates and causes like it is confetti.
“The future of unlimited giving has already come to pass in Missouri…” the story noted, summing up legal challenges to campaign donation limits in other states and nationally.
If you want to witness a spectacle, go to the Missouri Ethics Commission’s web site (www.mec.mo.gov) and click on “contributions over $5,000.” The five- and-six-figure donations rolling in daily to candidates from both parties are mind-blowing.
Sinquefield, the poster guy of largess, has spent almost $4.9 million this year on large contributions to causes and candidates from both parties (though mostly Republicans).
His magnanimity has become an issue in the secretary of state’s race. Sinquefield, who could use a friendly secretary of state to write ballot language for the initiative petitions he likes to sponsor, has given Republican candidate Shane Schoeller $400,000 so far. That should be a turnoff to voters and a plus for Schoeller’s opponent, Jason Kander of Kansas City. But Schoeller is making his campaign all about wanting to require voter ID, so who knows what will happen.
Flyover country? Maybe. But Missouri is roiling on the ground.
To reach Barbara Shelly, call 816-234-4594 or send email to email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at bshelly.