With one week to go before the all-important August primary election, the momentum in the gubernatorial race clearly falls to challenger Claire McCaskill over incumbent Gov. Bob Holden. Both metropolitan newspapers this weekend endorsed McCaskill in a move that quite frankly shocked me. I assumed at least the St. Louis Post Dispatch would give the nod to Holden.
Before anyone gets too excited let me clearly state that I believe the days of newspaper endorsements carrying significant weight are over. Once upon a time a newspaper endorsement could make or break a candidate. But there's just too much money in the political arena these days and any candidate can counter an unfavorable endorsement by spending fast money. And that's what will happen this week.
Gov. Holden still has the strong support of Missouri's labor unions and, in some ways, this particular race may reveal the strength of that segment of the population. But Holden also enjoys substantial support from trial lawyers and combined, these two constituencies will surely exert their influence. In a week we'll know the results.
Momentum in a political race is supremely important. Momentum can shift in a moment's notice however. McCaskill's people know how the process works. But so does Holden and company.
One aspect of this interesting race ironically involves how either candidate will do come November when one will face Matt Blunt in the general election. The current polls show both are neck-and-neck in a match-up with Blunt. But these polls are designed strictly to give Democrats a glance ahead in the hopes of influencing their vote next week.
The ingredient not discussed in full is how this race will influence the outcome in November on the presidential ballot. Missouri appears to be a close contest in the presidential sweepstakes and a bit of momentum by the Democratic gubernatorial nominee could shift just enough votes to put Missouri in the Kerry column. But it will take a strong candidate at the top of the state ballot. That puts even more pressure on the vote next week.