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This Week in Missouri Politics column: More election fallout

As I previously wrote, the huge wins for Republicans on election night was as much a victory for the brand as anything. The proof of that, perhaps more than anything else, was the Republicans win on Amendment 3.

If you were a Missouri Democrat, you had to be thinking that maybe you can pick up a Senate seat or two and a handful of House seats in 2020 and set yourself up for a favorable map to make some inroads and maybe get to 13 or 14 Senate seats and break through 55-60 House seats under a Clean Missouri map in 2022.

Election night ended with the statewide Democratic slate soundly defeated, which you had to assume would happen, along with no gains in the Senate and only one in the House. While that would certainly be disappointing, you saw Amendment 3 pass and put you in a worse place than you started before Clean Missouri.

Let me be the first to admit that I couldn’t imagine the Yes on Amendment 3 being funded and figured the No on Amendment 3 would be. Further, Missourians are always keen to vote no on every ballot measure, and I would have thought that one side having millions compared to nothing on the other — along with the tendency to vote no anyway — it would have lost.

Well, the simple hillbilly was wrong. Let me give you a brief rundown of people who were right: Todd Graves, Blake Hurst, Carl Bearden, Tony Luetkemeyer, Eric Bohl, Chris Vas, and I’m sure several others who I owe a Bud Light.

Plain and simple: It’s not a fun time to be a Democrat in Missouri. With that in mind, I called a guy who knows how Sen. Rizzo and Rep. Quade feel today: former Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder.

After the 1994 elections, the Republicans were down in Missouri in a pretty similar way to the Democrats today.

We have been trained to think that 1994 was a great year for Republicans — and it was nationally — but that red wave didn’t hit much of Missouri state politics.

While Republicans did pick up some House seats, a lot of those pickups were from wins in special elections; in the Senate, they simply treaded water. While Sen. Westfall won an open seat against Ed Payton to pick up a seat, Ted House defeated Sen. Fred Dyer to neutralize the gain.

Republicans held the U.S. Senate seat and the Auditor’s seat, but the congressional delegation was unchanged at 6-3 in favor of Democrats.

Last week, Democrats didn’t cash in on opportunities in the state House and Senate or in CD 2 but did hold the Auditor and a couple congressional seats.

I was wondering what Kinder and his crew did to go from that disappointing night to the juggernaut we see today.

He thought it went to issues. He pointed out that Missouri was never a pro-choice state or a pro-gun control state.

Now in my view, if you ask a poll question cold, then you can get a pretty split decision on the abortion or gun question. While thats true, the people who actually vote because of a candidate’s position on abortion or guns is still very much in favor of the Republican side.

In all honesty, if someone was going to be defeated for being too pro-life, then it was gonna be the guy who sponsored the most aggressive pro-life bill the history of the state running in West County St. Louis, and he won by 9 percent … 9 percent.

Peter reminded me that when the Democrats were holding their own in Missouri during national waves by Republicans, Bill Clinton had that brilliant line of “safe, legal, and rare.” He noted that today’s Democrats have moved radically more pro-abortion. Now, there are state party votes making it clear that those pro-life candidates in JeffCo and St. Charles and eastern Jackson County aren’t desired.

Everyone has their own views on those divisive subjects, but the scoreboard is the scoreboard.

The scoreboard does show that the state is probably a 55-60 percent a Republican state. It’s not a 70 percent Republican state as the legislative majorities would have you believe. So how does it go back to reflecting that?

I think Democrats are caught in a tough trap here. Take former Rep. Judy Baker’s campaign. She was a very good candidate who did everything she needed to do to get all of the Democratic votes in a district where that should be enough to win. Plenty of people will question how much money went to the 15th where Democrats lost by a wide margin, and the 1st where they won by a wide margin, and didn’t go to the 19th where it was very close.

No question the majority party is going to have the fundraising advantage, as they certainly did in Boone County, and adding Cooper County to the district was the difference four years ago and vital today. But if Kinder, who knows a little bit about turning a state party around, is correct, what issues can turn these seats?

I think that is the real pinch here. Currently, Democrats raise most of their money for statewides and even some of these high profile Senate races out of the state. It appears in order to obtain that money, you have to have positions very consistent with the national Democratic Party.

The pinch is that for the last 10 years, if you hold those positions it doesn’t really matter if you get that money or not — you can’t get the votes to win.

If Democrats apply Kinder’s plan that was met with a great deal of success, they would moderate their positions where they are not well received by the electorate, ramp up the volume on their positions where the public is with them and the Republicans oppose, and take any candidate on your ticket as long as they can win.

The opposition party is not just vital to the interests of those who find themselves in the minority; it’s vital to keep the majority honest and in some way beholden to the public. Missouri isn’t an extreme state. We are midwesterners; we are the Show-Me State by nature; we aren’t anyone’s experimental state for their policies.

I’m sure some folks won’t like it, but state Democrats have very bright leaders just as the Republicans did in 1994. It will be interesting to watch and see if their parties give them the ability to lead their party to the success Governor Kinder was given just a few decades ago.