Welcome to the first tipsheet of what promises to be one of the most interesting off-year elections in recent memory. Over the course of this week, we will be bringing you our take on all of the races leading down to the U.S. House. Keep in mind, no one will know exactly what the House and Senate will look like or even who the candidates will be until redistricting happens, but we can give you a view from our sources around the state as to where the campaigns start.
With Democrats controlling the White House and both branches of Congress, look for it to be another banner year for Missouri Republicans. There is a glimmer of hope for Democrats in that President Biden has thus far been able to curtail the most left-wing elements of his party and is a likeable guy. That, combined with better organization and redistricting, could give Democrats some hope. However, those are the types of theories that have been floated in Missouri for going on a dozen years. Republicans just seem to dominate every election that there isn’t a Todd Akin-type at the top of the ticket.
With that in mind, let’s start it off with the U.S. Senate race. Everything else cascades down from there.
U.S. Senate Republican Primary – Announced Candidates
Former Gov. ERIC GREITENS
When former Gov. Eric Greitens Greitens was just a state problem, national Republicans, some of whom are on this list, ignored us in the Show-Me State. Well, now Missouri’s problem has now become their problem.
With a Democrat in the White House, this should be a safe seat for the Republicans, and they shouldn’t have to drop a dime on this race. But with a guy who ties up women in his basement and fleeced a veterans charity leading the ticket, those national Republicans will have to open up their wallet, thereby endangering their chances of retaking the majority. As one national Republican put it, this guy is basically Todd Akin 2.0.
Some of you may find comfort telling yourselves there’s no way he could win a primary. Not so fast!
Greitens preys off angry people who want someone to blame for their problems. It may be true that 51 percent of the Republican electorate aren’t a collection of whiners and losers who detest personal responsibility, but it could be true that 33 percent of them are. And if anyone else gets into this race, that might be enough.
Some of you might think Republicans believe in Christian values and therefore would never go for a guy who resigned in disgrace because of a sex scandal. Not so fast!
Yes, there are a lot of Republicans who believe in Christian values. Take David Humphries, for example. However, a lot of folks are willing to throw those values out the window whenever it fits their personal agenda.
Some of you will say the sleaze and scandal were too much for the Republicans to risk again. Not so fast!
Some people are just hooked on Greitens — reason and logic be damned. And don’t judge, many of you reading this have fallen head-over-heels for a politician before.
A lot of Republicans saw the ridiculous way the media treated President Trump and some of the scandals Democrats and media basically made up (like the Russia hoax), and some once fair-minded Republicans are now highly skeptical of everything. This could give Greitens just enough room to get them to give him a second chance.
Bottom line: He is a great fundraiser, stays on message like maybe no one else in modern Missouri politics, and starts with a floor of probably 25 percent support from folks you could never convince he isn’t a saint. Sorry Cocaine Mitch, he is your frontrunner.
X-Factor: More scandals. He has repeatedly said this was one woman, one time. Well, if you believe that there is a first and only time you take your hairdresser back to your family’s basement, dress her in your wife’s pajamas, tie her up, and spit on her, then you’re a special kind of stupid. Consider becoming a Cubs fan.
Attorney General ERIC SCHMITT
The only one in the field to be elected statewide twice, Attorney General Eric Schmitt came out of the gate quickly and announced just after U.S. Senator Roy Blunt told everyone he was retiring. He is an outstanding fundraiser and has some existing national connections. His media strategy is strong — you’ll see him on the news once a week from the next year either putting criminals in jail or suing the Biden administration for something. He also has a good relationship with Senator Josh Hawley that he could use to either keep President Trump out of the race or even secure his support.
Some will question whether he has the killer instinct to deal with Eric Greitens, who has never been constrained by facts or honesty. Well, I think he does, but even if he doesn’t, he has a Linn County native on his team in Jeff Roe who certainly does. Also, to be fair, there is a strong contrast between the top law enforcement officer in the state and a guy who gets arrested all the time.
Bottom line: This will be a deeply personal race, and Schmitt’s story is probably better than anyone’s. There could ultimately be two primaries: the non-pervert primary which will decide who takes on the pervert, and the August primary against the pervert. Schmitt has repeatedly said he is in this race no matter who all files next year. He may get the chance to prove that in the coming weeks.
X-Factor: How many non-perverts jump and in and stay in.
U.S. Senate Republican Primary – Rumored Candidates
Congressman JASON SMITH
He left the Missouri House for the U.S. House nearly 10 years ago and has seen his career rocket to the very top of House leadership — one of the fastest rises in modern Missouri politics. If the Republicans take the majority next fall, Congressman Jason Smith will be the Budget chairman and is the top pick of almost anyone in the know in Washington to one day be Speaker of the House. During his meteoric rise, he made a pretty influential friend in former President Trump.
Some of you might remember the presidential debate at Washington University in 2016. There was a tape leaked by NBC that had Trump saying that he would grab women “by the pussy.” After any presidential debate, there is a spin room where each party fills the room with elected officials and big names to spin the results of the debate. After that tape was leaked, one of the only two elected officials in that room to defend Trump was Congressman Jason Smith.
He can wait as long as he wants to announce because his fundraising will be just as strong — and maybe stronger — if people think he will be Budget chair. He has more than $1.5 million in federal dollars on hand and has the relationships in Washington to raise a lot more. He has taken the 8th from red to scalding hot red and had the most Republican primary votes in the 2018 election. He is very serious about running but doesn’t have to be in a rush.
Bottom line: Will he give up such a sparklingly bright congressional career to run?
X-Factor: Most believe he is the most likely to get a Trump endorsement. That would pretty well seal the deal.
Congresswoman ANN WAGNER
Congresswoman Ann Wagner is the most independent-minded of anyone on this list and probably has the most guts too. She just won a hugely expensive congressional race where nearly $30 million was spent. She has a huge name ID in the state’s largest media market and is the best fundraiser on the list.
There is some clear remorse by many Republicans for how she was treated in 2018, and the best way to truly say “I’m sorry” in politics is with a $200,000 fundraiser. She has the rolodex to make it happen and would be the most effective on the attack versus Eric Greitens. She will have to explain her harsh words about President Trump in 2016, but he has endorsed her congressional races twice since then.
Bottom line: The more fragmented the primary, the better for her. She makes her own decisions and could choose to run at any time.
X-Factor: Does she have the passion to get in this race or not?
Businessman JOHN BRUNNER
John Brunner has run twice before, both losing efforts, but has maintained a base of supporters and some elected officials with his Young Americans for Liberty efforts. He seems to be quite cozy with far-left columnist Tony Messenger so that might make some folks scratch their heads, but no one doubts that he doesn’t like Eric Greitens. He is the kind of guy who will text you how much he supports you one day and then be a willing accomplice with an ultra-lefty in a smear column the next.
Bottom line: It’s a hell of a time to be in the hand sanitizer business, and he could fund another campaign and probably not miss the money.
X-Factor: Would he run a campaign just to target Grietens, or would he bow out of a race if his entry would help Greitens?
Congressman BILLY LONG
U.S. Congressman Billy Long enjoys representing the folks in southwest Missouri more than anyone in Washington. He is close to former President Trump and is someone that the former president could endorse. He has the loyalties of the ruby red 7th district and has the money to do it — and could even do some self-funding. Plus there is no one with a bigger, more engaging personality than Long. He will do very well on the trail in outstate Missouri.
Bottom line: Does he love his current job enough to risk it?
X-Factor: If he waded in, could he get that Trump endorsement?
Senate President Pro Tem DAVE SCHATZ
Sen. Dave Schatz is serious about running. He is term-limited in the statehouse and has the private resources if he chose to spend them funding a race. He has a conservative record to run on in the Capitol and has a list of accomplishments of delivering for real Missourians.
Everyone in Boonville and Columbia should have a Schatz sign in their yard for his work on the Rocheport Bridge alone.
Give him some time after session to take a look at the race, but if this were an arm-wrestling match, he would be the next U.S. senator.
Bottom line: Does he have the fire in his belly and room in his wallet to dive in?
X-Factor: If the field is fractured enough he could find his path.
U.S. Senate Democratic Primary – Announced Candidates
Former State Senator SCOTT SIFTON
Former Sen. Scott Sifton is a very talented politician who has waited his turn and apparently feels that now is his time. He was one of the most effective state senators of the term-limit era, and won a swing distinct twice — even with Donald Trump on the ballot in 2016.
He did this while being a top fundraiser, not just among Democrats, but in the entire state. Also of note: He is one of the first Democrats to win a competitive primary as a pro-choice candidate versus a pro-life candidate in South County, and then go onto win the general.
He could also do the job. Missouri has enormous shoes to fill in replacing Roy Blunt, and Sifton is one of the few Missourans who could.
Bottom Line: Do national Democrats unite behind him or someone else?
X-Factor: If he faces Greitens in the general, then the world unites behind him.
Veteran LUCAS KUNCE
Lucas Kunce is pretty much unknown in Missouri Democratic politics so he would have to spend some time building up his name. He will also have to answer for his 2006 pro-life position, something the Democratic Party is no longer OK with. He has already flipped his position to fit the new stance of the party that is moving ever left.
Bottom Line: Sifton is a huge hurdle for him to overcome, and he would most likely get trounced in the general based on name recognition alone.
X-Factor: Could his military experience help him?
U.S. Senate Democratic Primary – Rumoured Candidates
Former Gov. JAY NIXON
What a race it would be: Jay Nixon versus Eric Greitens. Nixon would easily have the best shot if he were to decide to get into the race, and national Democrats have already taken his temperature. He’s seriously considering, and we’ve got our eye on him.
Kansas City Mayor QUINTON LUCAS
If he were to announce, Mayor Quinton Lucas could be a serious contender in this race. He’s a promising upstart in the political space and has proven to be an effective leader at the helm of Kansas City. But his chance to announce has all but passed. He’s got to get in soon or wait for the next race.
U.S. Senate Republican Primary – Candidates who aren’t running
Lt. Gov Mike Kehoe has forgone a U.S. Senate race in order to run for governor. Watch his interview with Scott on “This Week in Missouri Politics” where he talks about the decision here.
Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft has also announced that he will not be running. Earlier in March, he and his wife, Katie, sat down with Scott for an interview to explain their decision to stay out of a race that Ashcroft was almost guaranteed to win. Read more here.