No one was more pleased with the outcome of the Missouri gubernatorial race on Tuesday than Presidential candidate John Kerry. Not that Kerry knows squat about Claire McCaskill's policies or program. His campaign knows she will be a much more formidable candidate against Republican Matt Blunt in November. And with the prospect for a razor-thin contest this fall, Kerry's people know that every vote will be critical.
McCaskill, the feisty state auditor, beat incumbent Bob Holden in stunning fashion Tuesday and pulled off a rare upset of a seated governor. So much for the polls too. Virtually all of the polling - which was done primarily by the metropolitan media - showed Holden with a slight edge though well within the margin of error. Voters need to remember the flaw in the polling process and how quite often these polls are intended to drive votes, not gauge public support.
McCaskill benefited greatly from the heated primary battle. She gained massive name recognition that will surely boost her campaign against Blunt. Blunt may hold a financial edge since the McCaskill campaign dug deeply to oust Holden.
Here is both some advice and a bit of a warning for the McCaskill camp. The trial lawyers and the unions financed the bulk of Holden's campaign. McCaskill will undoubtedly do some courting of these groups to raise funds for her campaign. But she should remember that voters rejected the message and the policies of the candidate they backed Tuesday. Getting in bed with these groups could well be a mistake come November.
Tuesday's defeat closes a sad chapter in the political life of Bob Holden. The results boiled down to his lack of leadership not some program he had advocated. And Missourians know full well we need strong leadership in Jefferson City. That above all else was the message delivered in the voting booths Tuesday.
In a future column I'll give my two cents' worth on the local races and other state races. But as I have said from the very beginning, the race for governor in Missouri overshadowed all other issues and personalities on the ballot Tuesday.
Had Holden won Tuesday, I believe Matt Blunt would have had a cakewalk in November. He still may be the favorite but only time will tell. With the importance that Missouri will carry in the Presidential election, John Kerry's campaign got a favorable boost Tuesday. Today, I doubt that boost will be enough to carry the state in the Kerry column. But it's a long way to November.