If you're interested in politics, as I am, the attention began to focus this week on the upcoming Missouri gubernatorial race. Secretary of State Matt Blunt at long last made his announcement that he would seek to unseat Bob Holden as governor. Blunt has already raised a fair amount of cash though he trails Holden in the fund-raising category by a wide margin. For an incumbent governor, Holden should hold a substantial edge in the cash category, which he does. But at this stage, Blunt has less on hand to spend than either Holden or Auditor Claire McCaskill. I believe that will soon change.
Meanwhile, McCaskill also has a substantial seven-figure war-chest of funds that she has raised to unseat Holden in the Democratic primary. That primary race will clearly overshadow Blunt's expected Republican primary victory and should be costly in financial and political terms for both Democratic candidates.
The clear political thinking is that Holden and McCaskill will drill enough holes in each other this summer to make Blunt's task much easier against the eventual winner when November rolls around. As much as I would like to think that way, I have this nagging concern that Holden is a bit more resilient than he's been given credit. In short, though I wrote off Holden as OTB (One Term Bob) last year, we must always remember the power of a seated governor when it comes to raising dollars and votes.
Holden should be an easy target. The list of his political mistakes is lengthy. He's unpopular within his party for the most part, he's hated by the GOP opposition and, given the chance, he'll make more mistakes between now and election time.
But Holden is the darling of the trial lawyers, the unions and the minorities. And those three factions can bring in the cash and deliver the votes. McCaskill had a solid background in Kansas City and will surely erode some of Holden's support there, but the battleground will fall in St. Louis where unions and minorities reign supreme.
Blunt meanwhile has been effective thus far in staying above the fray and quietly putting together a network of supporters and financial backers. But the old model of winning elections has changed and, to be successful, Blunt needs strong support in the St. Louis County area and at least some support out of St. Louis city itself. That will be no easy task.
Blunt will be portrayed as lacking the experience and seasoning to take over the top office in the state. In turn, Holden will be portrayed as a bumbling mistake-prone crony of union money and trial lawyers. McCaskill will portray herself as the ideal alternative to both these extremes. She's just feisty enough to pull it off too, given the right set of circumstances.
The Republicans are absolutely giddy over the prospect of a GOP governor and strong majorities in the General Assembly. I confess too that I dream of this potential both in Missouri and in Washington, D.C., as well. But I have this lingering fear that complacency will rear its ugly head in the coming months and the potential for change may fall short of reality.
When it comes to organizing voters, I give it to the Democrats. When it comes to raising funds, the nod goes to the Republicans. And since virtually all polls of any kind show the nation fairly evenly divided between the two parties, that equates to a lot of effort, money and time to sway a small percentage of voters who dangle in the middle.
Regardless of the outcome, 2004 has the potential for massive change or of remaining status quo. But then again, you could say that about virtually any election cycle. Isn't that true?