The Show Me State shows us something 

When Republican Senator Christopher Bond of Missouri announced that he would not run for reelection, his seat seemed ripe for a Democratic pickup. Barack Obama had just narrowly missed carrying Missouri by 3,903 votes, Democrat Jay Nixon had just been elected governor, Democrat Clair McCaskill had defeated incumbent Republican Senator Jim Talent in 2006 and Democrats had a ready-made candidate in Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, daughter of the late Governor Mel Carnahan and of former Senator Jean Carnahan, sister of 3rd district Congressman Russ Carnahan and granddaughter of longtime (1945-47, 1949-61) 8th district Congressman A. S. J. Carnahan (born in 1897, he was apparently named for Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnson, an indication of the pro-Confederate heritage of many Missouri Democrats).

In addition, the lead Republican candidate, 7th district Congressman Roy Blunt, at first seemed to be burdened with disadvantages: he spent 14 years in Washington as a congressman, much of it as part of the Republican leadership, he is married to a Washington lobbyist and his son Matt Blunt left the governorship in 2008 after one term with a low job rating. But in the four public polls conducted this year, Blunt has led Carnahan by a 47%-41% margin. In the most recent, conducted by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, he leads 45%-41%--despite the fact that his favorables/unfavorables are perfectly dreadful (25%-41%) and much lower than Carnahan’s (38%-43%). So what’s going on? Reaction to “President Obama’s health care plan” is hugely negative: only 37% support it and 54% oppose it. As PPP’s Dean Debnam writes, “The Missouri Senate race has very little to do with Roy Blunt or Robin Carnahan and everything to do with Barack Obama right now. If his numbers don’t improve it will be very hard for Carnahan to win.” This in a state where Obama won 49.23% of the vote, more than any Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

When I was in the polling business, we assume that any candidate with a favorables/unfavorables ratio of 25%-41% was a sure loser. Not so in Missouri this year, it appears. We are looking at something other than an ordinary political year.

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Michael Barone

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