A new wind that blew in today has once again kicked up dust around Missouri Republican Chairman John Hancock.
David Humphreys, a leading Republican donor from Joplin, released an affidavit alleging that Hancock had been conducting a “whispering campaign” against the last State Auditor Tom Schweich.
In Schweich’s eyes, the alleged whispering campaign was intended to plant seeds that he was Jewish and thereby discourage some big Republican donors from supporting him. Schweich, of course, committed suicide late last month while trying to pin the whispering campaign on Hancock, who has close ties to Catherine Hanaway, the likely 2016 Republican nominee for governor.
At first I thought Hancock would be relieved of duty as Republican chairman, but it now appears he will survive. KC Star political columnist Steve Kraske wrote earlier this week that Hancock would have trouble hanging onto the post only if Sen. Roy Blunt, former Sen. Kit Bond or Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder called for Hancock to step down. And none of them has.
The larger picture here, though, is that if Las Vegas was taking bets on the governor’s race, Hanaway would probably be an even-money favorite to win.
There are three main reasons I think Hanaway is going to be Missouri’s next governor.
1) She’s got name identity and significant political experience.
She was elected to the Missouri House in 1998 from suburban St. Louis and in the early 2000s became the first woman Speaker of the House. She presided over the Republican takeover of the House in the 2002 elections. In 2004, she was the Republican nominee for secretary of state and narrowly lost to Democrat Robin Carnahan.
In 2005, President George W. Bush appointed her U.S. attorney for eastern Missouri. She resigned in April 2009 and entered private practice. She is currently a partner at Husch Blackwell law firm in Clayton. (Husch Blackwell also has a Kansas City office.)
2) Her likely Democratic opponent, Attorney General Chris Koster, is extremely vulnerable to an attack on his integrity.
Koster, a former Cass County prosecutor, was the lead figure in a New York Times expose last October. That front-page story recounted how a lawyer for 5-Hour-Energy buttonholed Koster at a convention of state attorneys general and prevailed on him to pull Missouri out of a multi-state investigation of 5-Hour-Energy.
Koster was so eager to please that he pulled out his cell phone on the spot, called his office and in short order had his staff remove Missouri from the inquiry.
Right now, a very small percentage of voters knows about the New York Times story. But you can be sure that when Hanaway and her major campaign consultant, Jeff Roe, and her million-dollar campaign donor, Rex Sinquefield, get through, just about every voter in the state will be aware that Koster is not “a man of the people.”
At a meeting of Republicans in Kansas City last month, Hanaway gave an indication of how she’s going to handle Koster: She passed out bottles of 5-Hour Energy drink with joke labels that showed a cartoon image of Koster under the name “24-Hour Corruption.”
If Schweich thought he had it bad with the “whispering campaign,” Koster better seek out his tailor and get fitted for a suit of armor.
3) Finally, over the space of less than 10 years, Missouri has gone from pale red to fire-truck red.
To me, this says it all: In 2008, Barack Obama lost to John McCain by less than 4,000 votes statewide. Four years later, Mitt Romney beat Obama by 250,000 votes in Missouri.
Now, some of that can certainly be attributed to disenchantment with Obama initiatives like the Affordable Care Act, but I think it’s also a strong indication that the state has become much more conservative.
…And here’s one more thing to think about: How do you think Hillary Clinton is going to fare in Missouri — at the top of the Democratic ticket?