JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – After a tight race in the special election in the 50th district, which to some signaled a rising Democratic Party, Missouri Republicans began strategizing for 2018 elections. While Robert Knodell, executive director of the Missouri House Republican Campaign Committee, is glad the election is over, he worryingly sees a new enthusiasm from the minority.
“When your party is out of power at the executive level, your base and loyalists have a lot of enthusiasm to try and take it back. We were the beneficiaries of that enthusiasm [in 2016] with our voters, now we see that on the other side,” he said.
That enthusiasm has already manifested in Democrats flipping seats of Republican legislators. In Oklahoma, Michael Brooks won in Senate District 44 and Karen Gaddis won in House District 75. On This Week in Missouri Politics, Ray Hartmann, publisher of St. Louis Magazine, felt that minority parties always do better in midterm elections.
“When you’re running in 2018, which almost by definition is going to be a Democratic year, based on history, not partisan [favoritism],” he declared.
While Knodell is skeptical that the Oklahoma elections will signal similar wins in Missouri, he is cautious of complacency from Republican voters.
“We have to get the message out to the voters and turn those voters out,” he mentioned. Part of his strategy is to field good candidates who motivate Missourians to vote for them. He cited research that found that Missouri voters particularly care about the economy, healthcare, education, public safety, and jobs.
However, based on the vitriol seen at Republican town halls across the country, those issues might be more contentious than ever, especially because of a Trump White House.
“I think a lot of it is probably opposition to the president… When you’re in a down ballot race, a lot of the issues that people are talking about… are federal issues… It’s a challenge for candidates to get a local message through with all the noise at the federal level,” Knodell said.
His strategy has been to find candidates that are relatable to Missouri voters. To him, Missourians feel more comfortable voting for someone who has similar life experiences and philosophies. The best way for candidates to garner support is to know and be known by the community. He surmises that “the conservative message resonates with people in Missouri; I think we are a center right state. I think we’re a state that is turning red and becoming more red with every election.”
While it may be tempting for Republicans to be comforted by his sentiments, he wants to build and maintain his Republican majority. The 2018 elections will be a tough test for Missouri Republicans to grow, if not maintain their lead. “We have to do our job and make sure that we’re working hard enough to articulate our conservative message to voters,” he said.
Michael Layer is a reporter for the Missouri Times and the Missouri Times Magazine. He joined the Missouri Times in August 2017 after graduating from Goucher College the previous May. To contact Michael, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @_MichaelLayer