A fascinating game of politics is unfolding in Missouri at this very moment. And the outcome of this interesting game may well decide the winner of the gubernatorial race in our state. Heck, it may even help decide the outcome of the presidential race in Missouri. And with stakes that high, this brand of politics is worth watching.
In the closing hours of the legislative session, lawmakers agreed to put a measure on the ballot that would constitutionally ban gay marriage in Missouri. But the politics comes into play on deciding when that measure will go to voters. And here's why.
Conservative voters - primarily Republican-leaning voters - are expected to turn out in heavy numbers to support the constitutional ban. The logical thinking is that those same voters will support conservative candidates at the same time. So Gov. Bob Holden wants the election in the August primary to avoid a heavy conservative turnout in November when he is on the ballot. Secretary of State Matt Blunt, the Republican nominee for governor, wants the gay marriage ban on the November ballot to help the conservative candidates.
Holden says he has the power to call an election when he wants. Blunt says the election can be scheduled only when he receives the signed copy of the bill approved by the legislature. But that final version will arrive on his desk too late to place the ballot on the August primary. Thus, Blunt says, the measure will be on the November ballot.
Into the fray comes Attorney General Jay Nixon, who understandably has sided with Holden. But a circuit court ruled Friday that Blunt is correct. So Nixon immediately appealed the ruling and the issue goes to a higher court on Monday. Either way, it's likely this political battle will be decided this week. The stakes are enormous.
I doubt that lawmakers had the political angle in mind when they decided to put this measure before the voters. But Holden and Blunt clearly recognized the importance of when voters will decide this issue. And given the potential for a razor-thin election in November, this issue alone may be enough to swing the state in one direction or another. Holden says publicly that the outcome of his race will impact the outcome of the presidential race in Missouri. He may be right. That takes the stakes even higher.
Often we voters fail to recognize the inner-workings of the political process. And that's understandable given the complex nature of the system. But this issue is clear-cut. Both sides have too much riding on the outcome to give up the fight easily.
Blunt, to his credit, is the honest one in this battle. He clearly states that a November election will benefit his race and the race for president. Meanwhile, Holden simply says he wants the issue decided as soon as possible. But Holden's words ring hollow because his reasoning in deciding the election date is so obvious.
Keep an eye on the courts this week. It may say more about the November outcome than you expect.