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Mo. Gov. Race in Chaos After Blunt Announcement

The surprise retirement of Gov. Matt Blunt (Mo.) has set off a free for all in Missouri as scads of Republican elected officials, members of Congress and leaders in the state legislature eye a chance to move up to the top of the political heap in the Show Me State.


Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt's decision to step down after one term has resulted in a scramble in the state to find a Republican gubernatorial candidate. (AP)

The Fix chatted with a number of Republican operatives this morning in an effort to sort through the scrum. Each warned that Blunt's announcement genuinely stunned the political class in Missouri and that there would be a series of meetings starting today aimed at sorting out the field. And, while most of the focus is on the Republican side, the name of Secretary of State Robin Carnahan -- daughter of former governor Mel and former senator Jean -- is being floated for the Democrats, a prospect that presumptive nominee Jay Nixon, the state's attorney general, can't be too happy about.

Below you'll find our earlier handicapping of where things stand on the Republican side in Missouri, and, below that, an updated governor's line for races nationwide!

* Peter Kinder: The lieutenant governor didn't waste any time mourning Blunt, putting out a statement last night proclaiming: "I am the right person to deliver the positive change Missourians deserve." He didn't formally announce his bid in that press release but came pretty close, a forwardness that might not sit well with Blunt-aligned forces. Prior to being elected lieutenant governor in 2004, Kinder spent 12 years in the state Senate including a stint as president pro tempore.

* Kenny Hulshof: An insider favorite at the moment, Hulshof is under considerable pressure to consider running. Elected to the House from the north-central Missouri 9th district in 1996, Hulshof has been regularly mentioned as a statewide candidate ever since. With Republicans in the minority in the House now, the opportunity may be too good to pass up.

* Jo Ann Emerson: Like Hulshof, Emerson was elected to the House in 1996 and may well be looking for a way out with Republicans in the minority. If she ran, she could be formidable given the potential of being the only woman in the field and her base in the massive -- and heavily Republican -- 8th district, which encompasses most of southeastern Missouri. Emerson also has a golden last name in Republican politics; her late husband, Bill Emerson, was a major player in Missouri Republican politics.

* Jim Talent: Talent is an ambitious and talented pol who, until last night, didn't have an obvious next race. Thank you Matt Blunt! Talent has already run for governor once -- losing by a scintilla to then state Treasurer Bob Holden (D) in 2000. Two years later Talent ran and won a Senate seat held by Jean Carnahan but was on the losing end of his bid for a full term in 2006. Talent is a known commodity to voters in Missouri and would likely jump to an early lead due to his high name identification.

*** UPDATE ***

According to a high level Fix source, former senator Jim Talent (R) will not be a candidate for the newly-open governor's seat.

*******************

* Sarah Steelman: Steelman, first elected as state treasurer in 2004, is seen as a rising star within the party. Prior to winning her current statewide office, she served a term and a half in the state Senate. Steelman, somewhat coincidentally, announced her plans to run for re-election yesterday but could easily transition to a governor's bid.

* Charlie Shields: The state Senate Majority Leader, Shields had already made clear he would run for some statewide office in 2008 but hadn't announced (decided?) which one. Blunt's retirement could clarify the picture considerably for Shields. Before being elected to the state Senate in 2002, Shields served for more than a decade in the state House.

* Rod Jetton: Jetton is currently the speaker of the Missouri state House after being elected to the body in 2000.

UPDATED GOVERNORS LINE

5. ????: Just when we were prepared to add the open Delaware governor's race to the Line, Alan Levin, the head of the ubiquitous Happy Harry's pharmacies and assumed Republican nominee,takes himself out of the race. Any suggestions on what race (if any) should fill this slot? Offer them in the comments section.

4. North Carolina (D): The action in this open seat race to replace two-term Gov. Mike Easley (D) continues to be on the Democratic side where Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue and state Treasurer Richard Moore are already on television in advance of the state's May 6 primary. Republicans continue to look for a candidate to emerge from the jumble of little-known contenders running at the moment. Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory is the latest entry on the GOP side and might be the choice to unite the party and take back the seat. Still, a longshot for Republicans at the moment. (Previous ranking: 4)

3. Washington (D): Given that Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) beat former state Sen. Dino Rossi by just more than 100 votes in 2004, it seems certain that the rematch four years later will be close. An independent poll released this month showed Gregoire with a 48 percent to 35 percent lead over Rossi, and she should benefit from the advantages of incumbency as well as a pro-Democratic environment in the pacific northwest. Still, we have a feeling this one is going to tighten. (Previous ranking: 3)

2. Indiana (R): Republicans have grown less optimistic about Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) in recent months as skyrocketing property tax bills in the state have stoked voter anger with the incumbent. The Republican Governors Association released a poll earlier this month that showed Daniels with double digit leads over former Rep. Jill Long Thompson and architect Jim Schellinger, but he was unable to crack 50 percent against either of his likely Democratic challengers. (Previous ranking: 2)

1. Missouri (R): Many Republican strategists privately expressed relief at Blunt's decision not to run again, believing that the political damage he had incurred over his first term was too much to overcome. Still, open seats are by their nature more competitive than races where an incumbent is seeking re-election. Missouri was destined for the #1 spot on the Line regardless of Blunt's decision, but with him bowing out, it seems likely to hold the top spot for the foreseeable future. (Previous ranking: 1)

By Chris Cillizza  |  January 23, 2008; 12:54 PM ET
Categories:  Governors  
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Next: Giuliani's Missed Opportunity

Comments

In Missouri, Charlie Shields may well be looking for Pete Kinder to run for governor so that he can jump in to run for Lt. Governor. His statewide name recognition would be a barrier to a governorship run.

Posted by: fulrich | January 24, 2008 10:39 AM | Report abuse

CC, Washington shouldn't be on The Line--it won't even be close. It's a D cycle in a D state, with a D incumbent. I'm not sure why you have it there...the only reason you give is "...a feeling..."

Gregoire has been widely acknowledged to have done a very good job as Governor and is much more popular than when she first ran. Rossi hasn't impressed anyone but is the only R showing interest.

So I'm puzzled as to your reasoning. This looks a lot more like the Colorado Gov race a few years back. Bill Owens beat Gail Schoettler by a sliver (8,000 votes statewide), then won reelection very easily next time.

Posted by: malis | January 24, 2008 10:16 AM | Report abuse

What about Rhode Island? Carceri narrowly won last time in a very blue state.

Posted by: jon.morgan.1999 | January 24, 2008 12:24 AM | Report abuse

This is a sidepoint, but Kenny Hulshof's 9th congressional district was held by a Democrat (Harold Volkmer) for a long time until 1996. If Hulshof vacated his House seat to run for Governor, I'd expect/hope the DCCC would take a close look at MO-9.

So far, Missouri looks likely to lose its 9th House seat in the 2010 reapportionment. That further complicates things and makes them more interesting...

Posted by: jon.morgan.1999 | January 24, 2008 12:05 AM | Report abuse

I think some folks here are underestimating the competitiveness of the WA Gov. race. Everything Gregoire and the legislature do is predicated on avoiding any possible misstep or controversy that could help Dino Rossi. Sure, this is a more Democratic year than 2004, and incumbents generally have an edge over challengers, but we still face a real race here.

Jay Nixon is a shameless, unprincipled opportunist (so bad on school desegregation and other race issues that black Missourians supported Kit Bond against him in 1998), and I'm *thrilled* to hear Robin Carnahan's name floated for Gov. in MO. She would be a breath of fresh air and a million times better than Nixon. At the same time, we can't forget Claire McCaskill's controversial primary challenge to Gov. Holden in 2004 and the possibility that it contributed to Blunt's election.

Every major race in MO is very close. The two major party candidates don't even start with 45% of the vote each there; I think it's more like 48-48. Hillary as the nominee could mobilize Republicans to turn out against her, while I think Obama would be more likely to bring new voters and Republicans and independents in to support him. To the extent coattails exist anymore, the presidential nominee(s) could be a significant factor in the MO Gov. race too.

Posted by: jon.morgan.1999 | January 23, 2008 11:54 PM | Report abuse

CC:

Jay Nixon is a very very well-known quantity--he has been AG since 1993. Jim Talent (and any St. Louis based Republican) won't win. Emerson is a solid choice---but Nixon will win...put a fork in it.

Posted by: jb326200 | January 23, 2008 9:53 PM | Report abuse

I have a bit different line in mind:

1. Missouri
2. North Carolina
3. Indiana
4. Washington
5. Delaware

Missouri is obviously the most competitive, by far. In what is usually a competitive state, it's very unclear as to who will win/lose the nominations, much less be the next Mo. governor.

North Carolina is more competitive than most people think. As Easley is retiring, in a Presidential year & being that Liddy Dole is going to win re-election fairly handily, Pat McCroy has a great shot of winning the R nominatio & winning the governorship. His chances will be helped/hurt, depending on who wins the D nomination. There are 2 parts to the Democratic machine here in NC: The washington money folks & the good ol' boy system folks. Example: Mike Easley was able to put together the washington folks & the ol' boys, John Kerry was not: George Bush got R's & good ol' boy dems...Bush won. McCroy will likely win the R nomination, without too much of a problem. D's in my state are split: the washington folks are going all out for Lt. Gov. Bev. Perdue, while the good ol' boys are behind St. Treasurer Richard Moore. If Moore wins the D nomination, the Washington crowd will help our in the money to keep the seat D. If Perdue wins, the good ol' boy D folks will likely not support a tax & spend woman like Bev. Perdue, and Pat McCroy will likely be able to take half, if not more than half, of that portion of the party. We will have a clearer picture of this race after the primary, as for now it's muddy.

3. Indiana: Gov. Daniels has made some strong decisions to help clear up the state budget. Some of these decisions made people angry. Ultimitely, I believe, they will decide Daniels did what he had to do in order to balance the budget and re-elect him. Neither of the 2 main D's are fairing well against him now. I suspect he will win re-election.

4. Washington: I think Gregorie is in pretty good shape. One has to take Rossi seriously, but I doubt he's able to do as well as he did in 04. I think Gregorie has to campaign hard, but she's in good shape now.

5. Delaware: the rest are safe incumbents, this is an open seat. That's about the best I got, but in a 5 rating system...something has to go here.

Posted by: bryant_flier2006 | January 23, 2008 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Matt Blunt's annoucment that he would not run for a second term was a stunner. I don't think anyone saw that coming. CC has identifed the major Republicans considered running for governor. In my opinion, Jo Ann Emerson would be the best bet. She has been a long time congresswoman from the 8th Congrssional District. Ms. Emerson has an independent streak by supporting change in Iraq and the buying of prescription drugs from Canadian companies. She could run as an agent of change agaisnt the Republican-Blunt establishment in Jefferson City.

Posted by: rogden71 | January 23, 2008 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Cilizza --- Big things are developing with the Vermont Governor's race. Could become competitive.


Take a look:
http://greenmountaindaily.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=2138

Posted by: tracker2 | January 23, 2008 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Vermont? AG Sorrel is considering a run I think.

Posted by: anthonyjbrady | January 23, 2008 3:10 PM | Report abuse

cocky little lunatic, isn't he?

"today, Fred Barnes is suggesting that McCain look me up here in Palm Beach before the Florida primary. I have a similar idea. Why shouldn't Mr. Barnes call up Mitt Romney or Fred Thompson and ask to go by their house to discuss conservatism? Why do I have to sit around and talk to McCain about conservatism? What's going to happen there? You notice how this is working? Even though I'm irrelevant, somehow these guys have got to get my stamp of approval. I, and perhaps others at talk radio, remain the holdouts here.

So until McCain does this he's going to have problems unifying the Republican Party. Now, this doesn't jibe with the fact that I have no power anymore and that people are rejecting me. But it also presumes that McCain is the nominee. It also presumes that I'm the one that needs to get my mind right, and McCain can come and do that. (McCain impression) "That's right, Limbaugh! It wouldn't take ten minutes because I will dazzle you, like I dazzled the North Vietnamese!" Okay, so I gotta sit here and be dazzled. Why should these other media guys not have to go talk to Romney or Fred Thompson or Rudy, in their homes to find out about conservatism? Fascinating! I mean, this is some position to be in, folks, as someone who's finished; who's been written off as irrelevant. This is not about me. Don't misunderstand. My ego is not hurt here. I'm fascinated by the ebb and flow of this. I should be shut up; now they want me to talk to the guy, or him to talk to me."

rush limbaugh

r

u

f

u

s

Posted by: JKrishnamurti | January 23, 2008 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Chris, you should take a look at the Howey Political Report. They recently released their annual 50 Most Powerful Hoosiers list. Gov. Daniels is #1. Howey seems unimpressed by Schellinger and Long Thompson. Also the Guv has TONS of money. I'm no Daniels sympathizer, but these are things to keep in mind. Maybe move Indiana down a notch or two next time?

Posted by: jb347 | January 23, 2008 1:57 PM | Report abuse

drindl, the Fresno Bee will mirror all the rural southwest, on the R side, I suspect. Let me give you an illustration of why.

400 Mi west of Austin, Brewster County, Tx. sprawls over 6,193
sq. mi.

The county seat, Alpine, accounts for 6000 of Brewster's 9000 residents. 2000+ residents are actually associated with Sul Ross State, the small university in Alpine.
About half the remaining residents are retirees in Alpine's surrounding hills. The climate and scenery are good for retirees and the little university and the comfortable town provide a modicum of culture and food and drink.

So about six hundred huge ranches with total square mileage 10% LARGER THAN CONNECTICUT are populated by 1500 persons, not more than 60% of whom are able-bodied adults. That means that there is an ENORMOUS ACUTE labor shortage. That is why Brewster County, and the entire southwest, need a guest worker program.
--------------------------
McCain really does understand this.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | January 23, 2008 1:46 PM | Report abuse

I live on the border of Idaho and Washington and I can tell you Gregoire is quite popular now that she's had the opportunity to push through some legislation. She has gotten praise from fiscal conservatives for several projects she's completed and also championed liberal causes in Seattle. She's safe.

Posted by: thecrisis | January 23, 2008 1:36 PM | Report abuse

HAHAHAHAHAHHA

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120096343271605141.html

http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/home/daily/site_012208/content/01125107.guest.html

rush is done. The gop is done, as they were. As long as they are marginalzied I'm cool, they can drag this out. :)

I'm not for recipracting what the gop has done. I'm for fixing the damage. I don't want the left to replace them. Just all to have a voice again. not just rush and fox.

Posted by: JKrishnamurti | January 23, 2008 1:30 PM | Report abuse

'nother one bites the dust. tehee.

Fresno Bee, important political paper in CA:

'McCain has a stance on immigration that best fits the Valley's circumstances. He favors a humane, realistic immigration policy that combines a guest-worker program, a path to citizenship and border enforcement, all of which would help stabilize the crucial labor situation for the Valley's agriculture industry.

He is an unabashed believer in global climate change, a phenomenon that will have a huge impact on the Valley's water supply. He was an early leader in Congress in proposing "cap and trade" legislation to reduce carbon emissions.'

agriculture is huge in CA, and water has always been a big issue, but never more so than now. Ca farmers also rely heavily on Mexican labor, so his stance on immigration weighs in his favor. while it is true there is a lot of anti-immigration sentiment in some places, there's also an enormous legal immigrant population which is swinging heavily dem as blowback to R anti-immigraton fervor. so i think ther's a good chance he'll take the state.

the Bee also backs John Edwards.

Posted by: drindl | January 23, 2008 1:20 PM | Report abuse

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