Former Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Jim Talent will challenge freshman appointed Senator Jean Carnahan next year in a Senate race like none we've ever seen. Talent was narrowly defeated by former Treasurer Bob Holden for the state seat in November while Carnahan was named to replaced her late husband to the Senate seat.
Given the razor-thin political margins in the United States Senate, this match-up will be among the most closely watched in the nation. And it will be expensive and probably not very pretty. In other words, it should be a dog fight for months and months.
Here's a bit of irony in this race. Talent is from St. Louis and will be portrayed by the Democrats as a city slicker who is anti-agriculture and pro-urban legislation. Carnahan, from Rolla, will be cast as a rural Senator with broad-based appeal.
But if you look at the records, just the opposite is true. Talent will do much better in rural Missouri because of the liberal positions held by Carnahan. And Carnahan, who should do well in the rural areas, will dominate the urban vote because she is a Democrat and the heavily-populated urban areas are dominated by minorities who vote overwhelmingly Democratic regardless of the candidate.
So Talent may lose in the urban area he calls home and Carnahan may lose in the rural area she calls home. The days when the geography of the candidate had an impact are long gone. Talent won't have trouble portraying Carnahan as a liberal, big-spending Democrat. Her record thus far doesn't seem to mirror most Missourians' thinking. But there's a long time between now and the election and lots of things can and will happen. Unfortunately, it may boil down to money and Carnahan already has a healthy war chest of campaign funds. Actually it could be argued that the freshman Senator has been more successful at fund raising than at representing the views of most Missourians.
If the contest turns on experience, Talent wins. If the contest turns on who better represents the majority of Missourians, Talent wins. If the Carnahan name still brings sympathy over the tragic death of Mel Carnahan, his widow wins.
But here's one certainty in the race. If there is the election day shenanigans that struck St. Louis last November - where questionable voting procedures were followed - Missourians lose.