Friday, November 11, 2005


The latest Rasmussen poll, released Friday, shows Claire McCaskill the pick of 47% of Missourians. Sen. Jim Talent, the Republican incumbent, was the choice of 45% of those polled.

Both candidates have 55% approval ratings. McCaskill has a 7-point lead among independents.

Other gleanings from the poll:
Forty-nine percent (49%) of Missouri voters believe Judge Samuel Alito should be confirmed to serve on the United States Supreme Court. Twenty-seven percent (27%) take the opposite view and say he should not be confirmed.

Just 38% of voters in the state say that George W. Bush is doing a good or excellent job with the economy. Sixteen percent (16%) say he's doing a "fair" job, while 44% say poor.
Our take: McCaskill and Talent remain basically tied -- not a good sign for the incumbent, now gunning for his first full term in the U.S. Senate. McCaskill's significant lead among independent voters will probably erode when Talent starts a big media push next spring (if he's smart, he'll pull a Kit Bond and run ads bereft of party affiliation).

Democrats in Missouri are finally starting to act invigorated. Even here in the state's southwest corner, the minority party seems to be finding its voice, clearing its throat. If Ozarks Democrats field a credible candidate against Rep. Roy Blunt, the acting House Majority Leader, they can send a shockwave rippling across the state:

•A strong congressional candidate forces Roy Blunt to campaign locally, depriving him of resources he'd otherwise devote to other Republican candidates for Congress.

•Should Democrats get at least 45 percent of the 7th District vote, it would almost be impossible for Republicans to retain the U.S. Senate seat held by Talent; in statewide races, the GOP relies on the Ozarks to offset strong Democratic showings in Kansas City and St. Louis.

•The 2006 elections in Missouri will in large part be a referendum on the policies of Gov. Matt Blunt, son of the 7th District congressman. Blunt the Younger has lower approval ratings than President Bush, and his aggressive cuts in health care for the poor have angered even moderate Republicans. Matt Blunt isn't on the ballot. But Roy Blunt is, and it won't be surprising if the father, at the ballot box, pays for the perceived sins of his son.

•Should Republicans do poorly in the off-year elections, expect to see Matt Blunt face a challenge in the 2006 primary. We've noted before that many political insiders see Rep. Ken Hulshof as the likely challenger. Matt Blunt would have a hard time winning that race.

•A bloody GOP primary in 2008 would make it easier for Jay Nixon, the current Missouri attorney general, to win the governor's office for Democrats.

Lots of ifs and maybes -- and much depends on Democrats actually verbalizing a message of hope and progress, instead of sitting back as the GOP implodes in a cloud of scandal. If Democrats can't find their voice, voters will stick with the devils they know, even if they know they're in hell.

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