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Blog Home Page --> Governor -- Missouri

MO: Nixon (D) +7

In one of Democrats' prime pickup opportunities, Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon has sported big leads all year in his race for the Show Me State's governor's mansion. A new independent poll shows Nixon still leading, but by a far slimmer margin than we've seen this year.

The poll, conducted by Research 2000 for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and KMOV-TV, surveyed 800 likely voters between 9/15-18 for a margin of error of +/- 3.5%. Nixon and Rep. Kenny Hulshof were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Nixon.....50 / 86 / 11 / 52 / 45 / 55 (-2 from last, 7/10)
Hulshof...43 / 7 / 83 / 40 / 48 / 38 (+8)

Nixon's lead comes from his advantages in the urban and suburban parts of the state. He's ahead of Hulshof by a 71%-21% margin in St. Louis and a 55%-39% margin in more conservative Kansas City. He also leads in the St. Louis suburbs, a crucial area for a Democrat running statewide in Missouri, by a 54%-40% margin.

Hulshof wins the more rural parts of the state by about ten points, according to regional breakdowns.

Nixon remains ahead by an amount outside the margin of error, but Hulshof has significantly closed the gap. Before Hulshof beat State Treasurer Sarah Steelman in the state's August 5 primary, Nixon was leading a hypothetical general election matchup by a seventeen-point margin.

If the race becomes close, Nixon may be able to fall back on an increased turnout among African American voters flocking to the polls to cast ballots for Barack Obama. The survey shows black voters backing Nixon by a huge 82%-5% margin, while Hulshof has a 51%-44% lead among white voters.

MO Picks Hulshof, Nixon

Rep. Kenny Hulshof fended off State Treasurer Sarah Steelman to secure the GOP nomination for governor last night, setting up a battle with Democratic Attorney General Jay Nixon in November.

Hulshof, the favorite of the party establishment, won 49% of the vote to Steelman's 45% with all the state's precincts reporting. Nixon easily outpaced his token opposition to capture 85% of the vote, setting up what is expected to be one of the few competitive governor's races this year.

While Nixon has essentially been running for governor for four years, incumbent Republican Matt Blunt's surprise decision to retire after just one term forced Hulshof and Steelman into a six-month sprint to yesterday's primary. Now, Nixon has a big warchest, with $2.9 million on hand a week before the primary, while Hulshof had to spend most of his money to get past Steelman.

Most public polls had shown Nixon leading both Republicans by wide margins, and above the critical 50% threshold. The latest available, conducted for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in early July, showed Nixon leading Hulshof 52%-35%.

In the battle to replace Hulshof in his northeast Missouri district, former state tourism chief Blaine Luetkemeyer won the Republican nomination over more conservative State Rep. Bob Onder by a 39%-31% margin. State Rep. Judy Baker, the more liberal candidate in the race from the district's population base in Columbia, beat former House Speaker Steve Gaw 42%-33% for the Democratic nomination, setting up what Republicans see as a race that favors their candidate.

Hulshof never had trouble holding the district, and President Bush won the district twice, most recently with 59%. But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is poised to add Baker to the Red to Blue program for top challengers, meaning the Democrat will be able to count on fundraising and structural help.

Nixon Way Ahead

Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon continues to run well ahead of either of his potential Republican challengers, a new poll shows. The Democrat, who initially planned to run against well-funded incumbent Matt Blunt, now finds himself running alone as his GOP opponents slug it out in an increasingly bitter primary, in one of the best pickup opportunities for either party in governors' races this year.

The poll, conducted by Research 2000 on behalf of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and KMOV-TV, surveyed 800 likely voters between 7/7-10 for a margin of error of +/- 3.5%. The poll included a subsample of 500 likely Republican primary voters for a margin of error of +/- 4.4%. Nixon, Rep. Kenny Hulshof, State Treasurer Sarah Steelman, teacher Scott Long and frequent candidate Jen Sievers were tested.

Primary Election Matchup
(All / Men / Wom)
Hulshof..............32 / 26 / 27
Steelman............24 / 20 / 29
Long...................12 / 15 / 8
Sievers.................5 / 4 / 6

General Election Matchups
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Nixon.................52 / 83 / 14 / 56 / 49 / 55
Hulshof..............35 / 7 / 69 / 31 / 39 / 31

Nixon.................53 / 85 / 14 / 58 / 50 / 56
Steelman............34 / 6 / 68 / 30 / 38 / 30

With few governors' races actually on the table this year, Missouri looks like Democrats' best, and probably only, shot at taking back a GOP-held governor's mansion. Nixon's favorables are solid, with 56% saying they have a favorable impression and just 38% saying they have an unfavorable impression, and his GOP rivals' numbers aren't that good (Hulshof: 43% favorable, 33% unfavorable. Steelman: 39% favorable, 32% unfavorable.).

Too, the eventual Republican nominee will have to face a scenario much like John McCain now faces on a national level: Matt Blunt is simply not a popular guy. Just 42% of Show Me Staters say they see the one-term wunderkind favorably, while 54% view him unfavorably. It is little wonder, faced with a deep-pocketed and popular opponent, that Blunt threw in the towel.

Missouri is going to be a swing state in the presidential election in November, but Nixon doesn't have to be worried about being associated with any sort of "liberal" tag Barack Obama brings along with him. Nixon was one of the first candidates or incumbents we saw who offered a statement supporting the Supreme Court's ruling on the Second Amendment, and his tough-on-crime image always serves candidates well.

To make this a contest again, Republicans are going to have to come up with a new angle of attack on Nixon or some new approach to appealing to Missouri voters that will probably involve distance from Blunt. Until they come up with that attack or approach, the race looks like Nixon's to lose.

Missouri GOP In Chaos

Following Governor Matt Blunt's surprise decision to suspend his campaign for re-election, Missouri Republicans are scrambling to get to the head of the pack to replace him. Three major candidates have jumped in so far, all hoping to face likely Democratic nominee Jay Nixon. Still, with a relatively late primary, the crowded field of well-known candidates could only serve to bolster Nixon's chances in November.

The top Republicans have moved quickly to form their campaign teams and stake their claims to the nomination. In a four-minute video on his website, Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder said he looked forward to tax cuts and tougher positions on illegal immigration. The first-term number two hails from Cape Girardeau, just south of St. Louis near the confluence of Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky.

State Treasurer Sarah Steelman's campaign hit Clay County yesterday, stressing education, health care affordability and the economy to what the Kansas City Star called about 20 people. Steelman had announced she would seek a second term as Treasurer early on January 22, but after Blunt made his announcement, later that day, she decided instead to seek the governorship. Steelman is a former State Senator from Rolla, a small town halfway between St. Louis and Springfield.

The two statewide elected officials are not alone in the race, though. Today, U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof, who represents the Columbia-based Ninth District in the northeast corner of the state, plans to announce his own bid for governor, the Star reports. Hulshof has been calling top donors telling them of his decision, and a formal announcement will come today, GOP sources said.

Two other Republicans, moderate Rep. Jo Ann Emerson and former Senator Jim Talent, who ran for governor in 2000, have each said they will not run.

Hulshof likely begins as the front-runner, and in 2006 he spent more than $1.3 million. That's considerably more than Steelman's 2004 campaign, when she raised just over $900,000, and Kinder's, when he took in around $740,000. Kinder starts his campaign with about $275,000 in the bank, outpaced by Steelman's $330,000. Hulshof, FEC records show, has $350,000 in his federal account, though it is unclear how much he can transfer to a statewide bid.

No matter which candidate emerges from the GOP primary, they will likely face an uphill battle against Nixon, Missouri's Attorney General. Nixon has been running, albeit against Blunt, for most of the past four years, and recent polls had shown Nixon leading the Republican incumbent. Through the end of the year, Nixon had raked in an incredible $1.75 milion for his campaign, finance reports show. While Republicans have several candidates to be proud of, Nixon's advantage still makes the seat a better opportunity for Democrats than it is for Republicans.

Blunt Surprises, Drops Out

One of the races Politics Nation was looking most forward to covering next year just got a lot more boring, but Missouri Governor Matt Blunt, who today announced he would not run for a second term, did provide everyone in Washington a surprise. The Fix has Blunt's statement, in which he cites a desire to spend more time with his family and says the decision was not motivated by political considerations.

Still, Blunt would have had a difficult time overcoming a strong challenge from Democratic Attorney General Jay Nixon. Both had raised millions of dollars toward a general election matchup, though Nixon led by a wide margin, according to a November poll, after Blunt's first term was marred by poor performance. Just 40% of Missourians said Blunt's performance was excellent or good, the poll showed.

The announcement came as such a surprise that Blunt apparently hadn't even informed campaign staff of the decision by the time a statement was released. A campaign worker answering the phone at Blunt headquarters was surprised by the news when told by Politics Nation.

With his exit, Blunt ensures that Democrats have an excellent chance at picking up the seat. Nixon has a big head start on whichever Republican emerges from what is certain to be a competitive primary to replace Blunt. Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder, former Senator Jim Talent and at least a few of Missouri's five Republican members of Congress will likely consider a bid for the seat.

The news isn't all bad for Blunt, either. By bowing out of a race he very likely would have lost, he can save some of his reputation, make some money for a few years and think, once his kids are a little older, of re-entering public service. The state's Democratic Senator, Claire McCaskill, narrowly beat Talent in 2006, meaning she will be vulnerable in a few years, while Senator Kit Bond might be considering retirement when his term is up in 2010. By leaving on his own terms, Blunt leaves the door open for a return, and given his age -- he's just 37 years old -- he has plenty of time to do so.

Blunt's departure means Missouri will see its fifth governor in nine years, since the October 2000 death of then-Governor Mel Carnahan. Carnahan's lieutenant, Roger Wilson, served out the remainer of his term before handing the reins over to Democrat Bob Holden. Holden was seen in such a poor light after his first term that McCaskill beat him in the primary as he sought re-election in 2004, before losing to Blunt in the general.

Still, a governor of Missouri can go on to other things. Bond and John Ashcroft both left the governor's mansion for the Senate, while Carnahan was running against Ashcroft when his plane went down just weeks before the election. Carnahan's wife stood in for her husband after he posthumously defeated Ashcroft. It is safe to assume that Blunt has something else in mind down the road, and this move, while likely handing the chief executive seat to Democrats in 2008, ensures he'll have a shot when his time comes.

-- Reid Wilson, with Kyle Trygstad

How's This For Confidence

Facing perhaps the most difficult challenge of any incumbent governor in 2008, Missouri's Matt Blunt has had a rough couple of days. After running up a huge fundraising lead on his likely opponent, Attorney General Jay Nixon, Blunt is agreeing to return about three quarters of his $6 million haul thanks to a state Ethics Commission ruling, severely reducing his financial edge.

The state legislature repealed donation limits set in 1994, sparking a fundraising battle that saw hundreds of thousands of dollars pour into both candidates' coffers in single contributions. But the state's Supreme Court overturned the law in mid-July, ruling that the manner in which the state Senate had acted was unconstitutional.

After fighting the decision for months, Blunt and Nixon agreed earlier this week to refund excess contributions. The upshot: Blunt's money advantage will shrink from about $3.3 million to about $130,000. Nixon will refund $1.3 million -- a significant chunk, but nowhere close to the nearly $4.5 million Blunt will give back.

The young governor, son of House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, skyrocketed to national attention in 2004 when he beat now-Sen. Claire McCaskill for the governorship when he was just 33 years old. Last year he was elected vice chair of the Republican Governor's Association, a top post that gave him access to national donors and an excuse to travel around the country, beginning what many believed would be an exciting political career.

This year, though, Blunt will become the first person in RGA history to run for re-election as vice chair instead of ascending to the chairman's post, the Kansas City Star reports today. Blunt will forgo a bid to chair the group after Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue steps down in order, a spokesman said, to focus more on Missouri and his own re-election contest.

An RGA spokesman told the paper Blunt would have won the support of Perdue should he have decided to run. The news meant a Missouri Democratic spokesman could give the zinger of the day: "Missouri voters lost confidence in Matt Blunt's ability to lead years ago. It looks like his fellow Republican governors are just getting around to that same idea," said party flack Jack Cardetti.

GOP governors meeting this week in California are now expected to select Texas Gov. Rick Perry as their chief headed into the 2008 elections. And, judging from recent poll numbers, Blunt will be one of Perry's top priorities. A poll conducted in mid-November for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch shows Nixon leading Blunt by 9 points among all voters and by an astonishing 27 points among independents.

Dems Set For Show Me Pickup in Gov Race?

After a narrow win over now-Sen. Claire McCaskill in 2004, Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt has faced a rocky first term. Adding to his woes, the state's popular attorney general, Jay Nixon, has been plotting a bid against Blunt for years. A new poll, taken for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and KMOV-TV shows Nixon is in good position to take the seat back for Democrats.

The Research 2000 poll, conducted 11/12-15, surveyed 800 likely voters for a 3.5% margin of error. Blunt and Nixon were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Nixon 51 / 86 / 9 / 59 / 47 / 55
Blunt 42 / 8 / 85 / 32 / 47 / 37

Fav/Unfav
Nixon 47 / 41
Blunt 43 / 53

Blunt has a long road ahead of him. Just 40% rate his performance as governor as excellent or good, while 58% say he's done a fair or poor job. Nixon, on the other hand, wins 48% positive ratings and 41% fair or poor.

Democrats will make Missouri a top target, and by doing so they can kill several birds with one stone. The state is an important bellweather in a presidential race, and after picking up McCaskill's Senate seat in 2006, the DCCC is targeting Rep. Sam Graves, a Republican representing the suburbs of Kansas City, as well.