Carol Platt Liebau: Wishful Thinking?

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Wishful Thinking?

This piece in US News & World Report paints a very rosy picture indeed for Senator Jim Talent's Democratic competitor, Claire McCaskill.

In fact, it's probably a little too rosy. As I noted last week, there are good reasons, including his financial advantage, not to count Talent out:

What's more, while Missourians seem willing to put Democrats in the governor's mansion (and McCaskill lost a close race to then 36 year old Matt Blunt two years ago), they haven't elected one to the US Senate since 1980, unless you count the 2000 race that the deceased Mel Carnahan won -- and he was trailing John Ashcroft at the time of his death; most insiders expected Ashcroft to win.

The US News piece cites President Bush's 39% approval rating and the fact that 54% of Missourians think the Iraq war was a mistake. But what can't be forgotten is that, at its roots, Missouri is a conservative state (and one where Boeing is very important). They may think the war was a mistake, but they're not likely to want to add to the cut-and-run caucus in the Senate.

If the piece is right -- and the election really is going to be decided in the rural areas -- that's all good for Talent. Traditionally, Democrats can only win in Missouri if they can make big inroads outstate (they always win St. Louis and Kansas City, but McCaskill has no big drawing card to make sure that there's huge turnout there). And McCaskill's shrillness isn't going to help her with the commonsense folks outside the cities. Nor, fairly or not, is her gender: It's worth noting that Missouri has never elected a female governor or senator (aside from Mel Carnahan's widow), even though there were female candidates for the US Senate in 1986 and 1992 (the "year of the woman"), and for governor in 2004.


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