St. Louis Oracle

St. Louis-based political forecasting plus commentary on politics and events from a grassroots veteran with a mature, progressive anti-establishment perspective.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

A ‘perfect storm’ is brewing in Missouri

As this column is written, just prior to the Republican National Convention, the presidential race is in a dead-heat, both nationally and in Missouri. Nationally, the average results of the latest Gallup, CBS, Zogby, Harris, Los Angeles Times and Christian Science Monitor polls (taken August 9-24) show the presidential race in a statistical dead heat, with Democrat John Kerry holding a 46.8-46.2 lead over President George W. Bush, and Republicans anticipating a nice post-convention “bounce” in the polls for Bush. The Zogby Poll for Missouri released earlier this week shows Missouri to be the closest of all the “battleground states,” with Kerry holding a mere half-point lead over Bush. The latest Survey USA poll for Missouri (taken August 15-17) shows Bush ahead 48-47. It also shows Republican Sen. Kit Bond with a big 56-37 lead for re-election over Democrat Nancy Farmer, and Republican Matt Blunt with an early 49-44 lead for governor over Democrat Claire McCaskill. You can count on both the Bush and Kerry campaigns spending lots of their resources on Missouri.

The Oracle sees big changes on the horizon. Bush and Kerry would be better off spending their money elsewhere, because Missouri isn’t going to be close. The storm clouds will soon converge and create a "perfect storm" of factors favoring Missouri Democrats.

More people generally favor Democrats than Republicans and Kerry over Bush, but the only people that matter are those who actually vote. Historically, the classes that favor Republicans tend to turn out in greater percentages than the classes that favor Democrats, so Republicans often win more votes even when more people favor Democrats. This year is shaping up to be different. Here's what's coming:

Turnout will be the key, and a number of unrelated factors will encourage more Democrat-leaning voters to go to the polls. Several of them affect the turnout of African-American voters, who tend to give Democrats at least 90% of their votes. In Kansas City, African Americans are poised to retake that city’s congressional seat after 10 years in white hands. St. Louis County’s growing black population has one of its own seeking to retain the county executive’s office, which fell to the county’s only African American council member after the death of Buzz Westfall. In the City of St. Louis, African Americans feel threatened by business-backed “home rule” ballot measurers that would reduce the power of the city’s highest ranking black officerholder and make another’s office appointed by the mayor. Those ballot measures are also opposed by most Democratic Party regulars, who will be inspired to turn out on election day.

The ballot makeup also favors Missouri Democrats. As noted in my August 18 column, a petition drive succeeded in adding the ultra-conservative Constitution Party to the ballot, while petition drives for liberal independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader and the liberal Progressive Party failed. Disappointed conservative voters will have two ideologically appealing alternatives to Bush (Libertarian and Constitution), but Kerry will not have to fend off any progressive alternatives.

Any of these factors by themselves could be decisive in an election as close as what has been forecast. But the convergence of all of them creates the political equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane.

Furthermore, the Democratic appointed majority on the Missouri Supreme Court could implant an F5 tornado in the eye wall of that hurricane. If Congressman Lacy Clay’s lawsuit results in allowing “early voting” in the City of St. Louis, easily the state’s most Democratic jurisdiction, and especially if that privilege is limited just to that jurisdiction, the Democrats’ already decisive victory will become a rout.

These factors could have been offset if Constitutional Amendment 2 had been placed on the November ballot. Gov. Bob Holden deflected that ballot measure off to the August primary instead. That issue attracted thousands of extra voters into the primary, mostly opponents of “gay marriage,” and many of them voted to unseat Holden while they were there. The religious fundamentalists who came out specially to back Amendment 2 are one of the few segments of the Republican voting bloc whose turnout tends to be low. Those extra voters would have likely provided a pro-Bush impact if the measure had been voted on in November. Knowingly or not, Holden fell on his sword for his party.

The Oracle sees Kerry winning Missouri decisively enough to carry the rest of the statewide Democratic ticket to victory as well, even including the politically wounded McCaskill, U.S. senatorial underdog Farmer, and accidental state treasurer nominee Mark Powell.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Missouri ballot skewed to Democrats' liking

Republican Secretary of State Matt Blunt had a triple dose of good news for Missouri Democrats this morning:
  • The petition drive to get left-leaning independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader on the ballot failed to get enough valid signatures. Nader will not compete with Democrat John Kerry for progressive votes in this battleground state.
  • The petition drive to get the Constitution Party and its ultra-conservative presidential candidate Michael Peroutka on the ballot was successful. Peroutka will compete with Republican President George W. Bush for conservative votes here.
  • The Progressive Party, the Kansas City-based affiliate of the Green Party of the United States, also failed to get its five candidates on the Missouri ballot, falling short by just 377 valid signatures.
This leaves Missouri's ballot skewed just the way Democrats like it: two conservative alternatives (Libertarian and Constitution Parties) to Bush and other Republican candidates, combined with no place else to go for principled progressive voters. My guess is we won't be hearing any more Democrat whining about "spoilers" in Missouri this year.

The Missouri Green Party (affiliated with a different national party organization than the Progressive Party) continues to have partial ballot status in Missouri. It filed candidates in six local contests (all in the St. Louis area), only three of which involve both Democratic and Republican contenders.

The good news for establishment Democrats is bad news for principled progressive voters. The absence of more progressive alternatives will allow Democratic candidates to drift further and further to the right, to pander to more conservative voters. When they win with that formula, it will mean more conservative policies from Democrat officeholders. (Remember Democratic President Bill Clinton proudly "ending welfare as we know it?") Big Business will fund Democrat campaigns even more than before, leaving the party beholden to its corporate owners. A Democrat victory this November won't necessarily be a victory for working families.

On the bright side, perhaps this skewed ballot will cause Republican lawmakers to see the value of instant runoff voting (IRV). Democrats will like things just the way they are, but they always have.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Primary analysis: ward and township breakouts

State Auditor Claire McCaskill carried most counties in the August 3 Democratic gubernatorial primary, but not the City or County of St. Louis. Holden swept all 28 St. Louis County townships and all but three of the 28 city wards. He even carried Democratic Committee Chair Fred Kratky's 16th Ward, whose organization endorsed McCaskill and which is full of the conservative and moderate Democrats to whom McCaskill most appealed.

It was a bad day for Kratky. His organization also endorsed Mark Abel for State Treasurer and approval of Amendment 1 (Rockaway Beach casino), but did not carry either. Most embarrassing was its endorsement of Joan Barry over the ward's own favorite son Mariano Favazza in the 3rd District congressional contest. Favazza trounced Barry in the 16th by nearly 2-to-1 and carried the ward with 38% of the vote. The ward endorsement, as well as recorded telephone messages from ward icon Jim Shrewsbury, could only garner Barry a weak 2nd-place finish, with 19.3%. District winner Russ Carnahan could only muster a 4th place finish in the conservative ward, the boyhood home of his Republican opponent, Bill Federer.

The 16th wasn't the only ward where Favazza took on the ward organization and won. He also carried the 12th and 23rd, whose ward healers had also endorsed Barry, and also the 10th. Favazza also finished ahead of Barry in two other wards where Barry was endorsed, the 14th and 24th, but which Jeff Smith won.

Of course, Jeff Smith was the real story in the City, carrying nine wards (and just two votes shy of a tenth) and the city as a whole, without a single ward endorsement. He also carried four St. Louis County townships and the county as a whole. His intense and effective grassroots effort almost succeeded in a very high turnout election, where grassroots activities are typically overwhelmed by the influx of marginal voters who are more susceptible to media advertising and bandwagon perceptions. In the end, those dynamics carried Carnahan to victory, though not by much.

Of course, the closeness of wins don't usually matter. Carnahan's squeaker in this contest followed his narrow primary win in his initial run for state representative in 2000. That career start is not unlike that of the seat's current holder, Dick Gephardt, whose first election victory was an approximate 100-vote win over a first-term Republican incumbent for 14th Ward alderman in 1971.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Western and Mid-Missouri shut out of Democrats' statewide ticket

Lost in the post-primary shuffle: eastern Missouri candidates swept all statewide offices in the Democratic primary. All but one is from the St. Louis area.

Gubernatorial candidate Claire McCaskill's TV ads tout her connections with everything but St. Louis (notably her stint as Jackson County prosecutor), but she has called toney Ladue home ever since marrying her controversial nursing home owning husband.

The Carnahan name is associated with Rolla, but Robin, the Democratic candidate for Secretary of State, has lived in St. Louis for some time. Brother Russ and mom Jean also now live in St. Louis city or county.

State law requires the Missouri attorney general to reside in Jefferson City, which Jay Nixon lists as his address, but Nixon hails from suburban Jefferson County. So does state treasurer nominee Mark Powell, the mayor of Arnold. State Treasurer (and U.S. Senate nominee) Nancy Farmer is from the City of St. Louis.

No St. Louis area candidate filed for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, but Bekki Cook of Cape Girardeau beat out Mid-Missouri's Ken Jacob.

This lack of geographic balance might be troublesome for Democrats in most years, especially considering the animosity many outstate voters have for St. Louis. But Republican President George W. Bush's unpopularity will probably power the entire Democratic ticket to victory, in spite of itself. You heard it here first.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Betrayal?: Blacks backed Amendment 2

A breach in progressive solidarity?

The dirty little secret is out: A majority of African American voters, in the privacy of their voting booths, opposed civil rights for same-sex couples and voted for Constitutional Amendment 2, putting a restrictive “man plus woman” definition of marriage in the Missouri Constitution.

Amendment 2 carried 13 of 14 black-majority wards in the City of St. Louis and five of six black-majority townships in St. Louis County. The only exceptions were the City’s 6th Ward and University Township in the County, both central-corridor areas whose substantial white minorities consist primarily of the young liberals who formed the core of opposition to the amendment.

In both the city and the county, the black-majority wards and townships supported the controversial amendment by greater margins than white-majority areas in those jurisdictions. In fact, in the city, the black wards (excluding the 6th) supported the amendment by a greater percentage than the three most conservative lily-white southwest city wards (where less than 11% of the population cast nearly a third of the city’s Republican primary votes).

The 13 black wards that backed the measure did so with over 55% of the vote. The five county black townships doing so posted a 64% majority for the amendment. Both figures are well ahead of the support percentages for the entire city (where the amendment lost) and the entire county (60%).

Both major African American weekly newspapers, the St. Louis American and the St. Louis Argus, had remained editorially silent on the ballot measure.

Doug Gray, campaign manager for the Constitutional Defense League, told St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Bill Smith that he was disappointed that those people who historically have supported civil rights issues -- labor unions, African Americans and Democrats -- largely decided to sit out the Amendment 2 election. "Being silent and saying nothing is no longer good enough."

Monday, August 09, 2004

Post-primary observations

Statewide: Unfortunately, my projection of a 10-point win by gubernatorial challenger Claire McCaskill was pretty accurate, and my allusion to 45% support for Gov. Bob Holden was dead on. I would have liked to have been wrong. Pre-primary polls defined the contest’s fault lines along ideology, with progressives standing up for Holden while moderates and conservatives backed McCaskill.

Progressive Democrats have got to be concerned. In addition to the defeat of the principled governor, the anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment passed by a much greater margin than anyone had predicted. Jason Klumb, the promising young progressive choice for state treasurer, finished dead last in a three-way contest. The most principled statewide nominee, U.S. Senate candidate Nancy Farmer, faces the most uphill battle, as polls continue to show incumbent Republican Sen. Kit Bond with a sizeable lead. While prospects look very good for other Democrats in November, doubts linger whether their victories will do much to advance a progressive agenda. More about that in a later post.

3rd District: Also regrettable was the 3rd District congressional primary going the way I predicted, apparently for the reasons I had laid out. (See my July 25 analysis and subsequent updates (all published on the Arch City Chronicle web site) republished as the August 5 entry in this blog.) Russ Carnahan won an uninspiring squeaker, as money and birthright proved just as meaningful in a Democratic contest as one would expect in the Republican arena. Jeff Smith’s grassroots effort was much more effective and productive than I had expected, but couldn’t overcome the large influx of underinformed “bandwagon expectation” voters that are inherent in a high-turnout election. <>But things could have been worse. The stealth effort on the part of the National Rifle Association that I had feared would put Steve Stoll over the top did not materialize, as the NRA blew a once-a-generation opportunity to nab an urban seat. The rural third of the district came through for Stoll, but endorsements from Missouri Right to Life and a couple ward organizations couldn’t even get him 5% in St. Louis city and county. A strong grassroots effort for Mariano Favazza overcame Joan Barry’s union and organization support in the city (where Favazza finished five points ahead of Barry), costing her the win overall.

I must admit, though, that ideology aside, it was reassuring to see Favazza’s low-budget (under $50K) grassroots effort outduel organizational opposition in his own back yard and even put him ahead of at least one of the candidates (Mark Smith) who spent big bucks on television (and had the increasingly worthless endorsement of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch).

While Jeff Smith carried both St. Louis city and county and Stoll won decisively in Jefferson and Ste. Genevieve Counties, Carnahan’s steady 22%+ in every county carried the day. Carnahan won the nomination in the least likely place: Jefferson County. Stoll’s big win there overshadowed the 4,473-vote cushion that Carnahan’s 22.3% second-place finish built over Jeff Smith’s 8.2% fourth place. Carnahan’s overall margin of victory was only 1,733 votes.

In the Republican congressional primary, Bill Federer’s lopsided 3-1 win demonstrated conclusively that his legal hassles with a vindictive Gephardt campaign four years ago did not damage Federer’s standing with GOP voters. The outpouring of voters favoring Amendment 2 also worked to Federer’s benefit, while the Post-Dispatch endorsement of Joan McGivney was meaningless in a Republican primary.

Federer’s solid victory and Carnahan’s uninspiring win, though, do not put the 3rd District seat in jeopardy for Democrats. Redistricting (courtesy of Joyce Aboussie) made the district solid Democratic territory. President George W. Bush’s unpopularity in this area seals the deal for Carnahan. Prediction: The Oracle sees the lackluster Carnahan beating Federer by a larger margin than Rep. Dick Gephardt enjoyed against a first-time opponent two years ago.

Other Democratic contests:
Jeanette Mott Oxford’s win in the 59th District was closer than expected (fewer than 200 votes), but a win is a win. Progressives can expect her to provide inspired leadership in the house. In the 64th District, birthright was a mixed blessing as Tim Schoemehl lost to Carnahan-backed Rachel Storch. Father Vince’s influence opened doors and checkbooks, but also left the younger Schoemehl vulnerable to resentment over the elder’s school board activities. Reverse birthright failed in north St. Louis, as rapper Nelly’s grandfather Ocie Haynes was ousted as 19th ward committeeman. In St. Louis County, pro-choice backers helped John Bowman reclaim his former house seat in a 70th District rematch with State Rep. Matt Muckler.

GOP notes: Former County Executive Gene McNary rebounded from his 2000 loss in the 2nd District congressional primary by edging out Councilman Kurt Odenwald for the county executive nomination. The difference may have been Democratic congressional candidate Jeff Smith, who drew independent voters into the Democratic primary in Odenwald’s strongholds. Like the 3rd District, the Post-Dispatch’s endorsement of Odenwald may well have been the kiss of death in a Republican primary. By nominating McNary, Republicans avoided having to trade in its council majority to win the county executive office, because Odenwald may be the only Republican who can hold his 5th District seat. (Odenwald won re-election in 2002 in a district that Sen. Jim Talent was unable to carry in his own winning effort.)

In the wide-open GOP contest for state treasurer, Sen. Sarah Steelman survived her Post-Dispatch endorsement to score a big win. Her leadership in derailing state financing for the new Busch Stadium and her sponsorship of Amendment 2 both helped.

Libertarian miseries: For the second straight election, the Libertarian Party’s planned gubernatorial nominee lost the primary to former Republican doormat John Swenson.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Pre-primary predictions: Congress 3rd District

This blog was created on August 5, 2004, but the following piece was written on July 24, 2004, and published on the Arch City Chronicle web site on July 25, 2004:

Handicapping the 2004 Primary: 3rd Congressional District

In the Democratic Primary for this safely Democratic seat, what was initially thought to be a coronation for State Rep. Russ Carnahan has turned into a wide-open free-for-all. There are 10 candidates, most of whom have significant credentials and bases of support. With so many strong candidates dividing the vote, factors that swing just a percentage point or two can be decisive. Any candidate who can top 25% will win.

The one-time sure thing for Carnahan fell victim to a growing perception that Russ is the dim bulb on the Carnahan family tree. He just doesn’t seem to measure up to the legacy of his father (the late Governor Mel) or his mother (former Senator Jean), and he is overshadowed as well by sister Robin (unopposed for the Democratic nomination for Secretary of State). These perceptions were compounded by disappointing early fundraising results. That was just enough to break down the early bandwagon. Now Russ must scratch it out with the others. Here are some of the factors that may decide who wins:

Ideology. The formerly conservative district is now nearly evenly divided between conservative and progressive ("liberal") voters, at least in the Democratic primary. A single dominant liberal or conservative would win easily, but there are too many strong candidates in both camps for that to happen. While the mix of social and economic issues make some candidates hard to peg, most observers believe that liberals will be drawn to Carnahan, Jeff Smith, Mark Smith, former State Rep. Jo Ann Karll, Corey Mohn and Mike Evans, while conservatives will opt among Sen. Steve Stoll, former State Rep. Joan Barry, Circuit Clerk Mariano Favazza and Michael Bram. Jeff Smith especially appeals to liberals who favored Howard Dean prior to that campaign’s implosion, and the small but loyal cadre of Dennis Kucinich supporters has one of their own in Mohn.

Single-issue politics. Abortion and gay marriage are getting lots of attention. But in a divided field, the important issue is the one that sets out one major candidate from all the others. In a primary, that is often an issue on which a candidate’s position is out-of-sync with the party. The single issue that could be decisive in this contest is gun control. The field favors gun control (or at least opposes "conceal and carry"), except for Stoll and Bram, and Bram’s candidacy has lots of other problems. The National Rifle Association could snare a seat in a largely urban district with a stealth campaign to get its members to vote in the Democratic Primary for Stoll. I have no indication whether or not that’s actually happening.

Geography and "home turf" loyalty. The biggest geographic factor is the pervasive anti-St. Louis bias that outstate voters demonstrate regularly. Voters in Jefferson and Ste. Genevieve Counties identify more with outstate Missouri than their urban neighbor. This gives Stoll, from Jefferson County, a big advantage in those counties (about a third of the district). He has to share home-turf advantage with Karll in northern Jefferson County, but his conservative stances on abortion and guns sell better there than the pro-choice Karll. Barry is expected to run strong in her St. Louis County base, but 2002 redistricting removed much of that territory from the district. Some pundits give Carnahan a similar edge in south city, but the recently transplanted Rolla native is not really well positioned to claim hometown loyalty. On the other hand, his Rolla roots will help him encroach on Stoll’s turf south of the Meramec. Favazza will win a chunk of the conservative part of the city vote, but votes of city progressives are up for grabs. So are voters in central St. Louis County, from University City to Webster Groves.

Money and Media. The marginally inattentive voter (who throws away political doordrops and direct mail without looking at them) can only be reached by television and radio ads, and half the field has raised enough money to afford air time. Carnahan’s fundraising, though disappointing, is still better than any other Democrat (though well behind Republican Bill Federer), and Carnahan was first to hit the air. Jeff Smith’s war chest could challenge Carnahan on the airways, but rumors say he may spend it elsewhere (which would fail to capitalize on one of the photogenic candidate’s primary assets). Mark Smith, Stoll and Barry also have six-figure balances which could buy some air time. No one else raised as much as $35,000.

Organizational endorsements. Organizational endorsements are waning in importance, but could still provide the winning edge in a wide-open field like this. Carnahan has the support of Planned Parenthood and the gay rights organization PROMO, but not his mother’s home township (Clayton), which backed Jeff Smith. Barry enjoys healthy support from organized labor, in spite of her social conservatism, and the St. Louis Police Officers Association. She scored five important ward endorsements in Favazza’s back yard, but Favazza’s dominance in yard signs in those wards (an admittedly risky measure of support) suggests that many voters are unimpressed with those endorsements. Stoll enjoys support from teachers unions (despite his opposition to abortion rights) in addition to strong party backing south of the Meramec. He trumped the other pro-life candidates by winning the Missouri Right to Life endorsement. Stoll’s endorsement by the 9th Ward organization seems like an important coup in Carnahan’s home district, but that organization’s clout is eroded by the emerging political influence of the progressive Jeanette Mott Oxford.

Motivated grassroots organization. In the similarly wide-open 2000 Republican primary in the 2nd District, State Rep. Todd Akin defeated better known and better financed opponents because he had the most dedicated core of volunteers. Grassroots intensity often flows to candidates like Akin, underdogs with a fighting chance. So who has the fired up troops this year in the 3rd? The liberal candidate with the most intense grassroots loyalty seems to be Jeff Smith. He apparently picked up many of those who had been prepared to support State Sen. Joan Bray before she dropped out, and those people are among the best grassroots organizers in the area. Howard Dean’s endorsement adds to the atmosphere. The grassroots candidate of the Right is Favazza. Conservative rivals Stoll and Barry have garnered most of the conservative ward, township and organizational endorsements, but Favazza has beaten that before. His intensely loyal grassroots support outflanked overwhelming organizational opposition when he upset Circuit Clerk Mavis Thompson in 1998. This year, his carefully targeted high-turnout areas are seeing an impressive flurry of his signs and flyers. He is a shrewd strategist, he feasts on foes who underestimate him, and he knows how to win votes. However, his recent retaliatory strike against Barry-backing Aldermanic President Jim Shrewsbury was a strategic blunder that will backfire.

Gender loyalty. One of politics’ dirty little secrets is that, all things being equal, voters tend to vote for candidates of their own gender. Data show this to be especially true among women. This factor probably only amounts to one or two percentage points, but in a divided field, those votes could be decisive. It is noteworthy that while Jeff Smith inherited many of Bray’s former supporters, three prominent women in that camp backed Karll in the Clayton Township endorsement vote. There are only two women in the race, and the ideological differences between the socially conservative Barry and the liberal Karll lessen the chance that they will compete for the same votes.

Name confusion. Former Mayor Freeman Bosley, Jr. won his first election when a political unknown with the same last name as Bosley’s major opponent drew more votes than Bosley’s margin of victory. This year, unrelated Jeff and Mark Smith will each probably lose some votes to each other due to voter confusion, and the stronger Smith will lose more. On the other hand, Barry may pick up support from voters who confuse her with well-respected former candidate Bray.

Ballot placement. Jeff Smith won the lottery to appear first on the ballot. The bottom spot (often regarded as the next best ballot placement) belongs to Karll.

Bandwagon. Many casual, unaligned voters in the St. Louis area seem to use voting as an exercise in personal affirmation. They feel better about themselves if they vote for the candidate who wins. Subconsciously (or sometimes even consciously) they seek out who is going to win and then vote that way. This phenomenon helps explain why so many voters in the 3rd District voted for Dick Gephardt in his contest and (until 2000) for John Ashcroft in his, in the same trip to the polls! Carnahan entered the race as the "presumptive nominee," and he still enjoys that aura among those who aren’t paying attention. Television and radio ads over the last three weeks will reinforce this impression, unless another candidate can outdo Carnahan with more or better commercials. Only the monied candidates have a shot at this pathetic but frequently decisive bloc of voters.

Turnout. This factor interacts with the others and helps determine which ones matter. The voters who vote in low-turnout elections are the well informed regulars, whose decisions are less affected by media advertising. Strong grassroots candidates do well in low-turnout elections. The additional voters who participate in high-turnout elections tend to be marginally inattentive, and are the most likely to be swayed by bandwagon psychology and advertising. So a high turnout favors the monied candidates, while a low turnout favors candidates with strong organization backing and good grassroots organizations. Selective turnout is even more important. A controversial ballot measure or other primary contest that attracts voters of a particular ideological bent or those from just one region can be decisive. Amendment 2 may attract both progressives favoring gay marriage and "Religious Right" opponents, but the extra voters who take a Democratic ballot will be predominantly liberal. Contentious Democratic primaries for state representative for Carnahan’s old seat and in the western part of the city will also attract disproportionately liberal voters. On the other hand, the Democratic turnout in left-leaning central St. Louis County will be eroded by well-publicized Republican primary contests involving Clayton’s Gene McNary, Shrewsbury’s Kurt Odenwald and Webster Groves’ Joan McGivney. Barry’s south county base will also be eroded by contested GOP primaries involving Sen. Anita and Bob Yeckel.

This analysis has very little to say about Mark Smith, because I have never figured out the source of his support. He is personable and has sound proposals and a credible resume, but the same can be said of most of his opponents. His stint as police board president has attracted business backers, but not the Police Officers Association. Others apparently know what I don’t, though, because he is among the leading fundraisers and his lawn sign representation in my neighborhood is more than respectable. Other pundits list him among the handful given a decent chance of winning.

So, all things considered, who wins? The divided candidate field means that any of a half dozen candidates have a serious shot at winning, so it wouldn’t be that surprising if the person I have picked to come in 5th or 6th actually takes the prize.

If turnout is low, Stoll and Jeff Smith could win. Jeff Smith seems to be gaining momentum among seriously progressive Democrats, but I give the edge to Stoll if turnout is low. His campaign has a classic "niche" appeal that could snare the plurality in a divided field. His "niche" is conservative Democrats favoring his pro-life, pro-gun and anti-gay-marriage positions. Notably he is the only "serious" pro-gun Democrat in the contest (Bram doesn’t count). If the National Rifle Association gears up a stealth campaign to get its members to vote in the Democratic Primary, Stoll probably wins.

However, I believe that turnout will be at least moderate, and in the end, the sophisticated factors I have discussed will cancel each other out, leaving money and name recognition to carry the day. So in spite of campaign disappointments and the "dim bulb" aura alluded to earlier, Carnahan is my pick to win it all, with Stoll a close second. Barry’s smart media campaign identifying her with health care will vault her into third ahead of Jeff Smith. Karll, Favazza and Mark Smith will battle for fifth, while Mohn will lead the bottom three, ahead of Evans, with Bram coming in last.

In the Republican primary, "Religious Right" conservative and two-time nominee Bill Federer faces former Webster Groves council member Joan McGivney in a district that is much less conservative than in Federer’s prior runs. Federer has raised nearly $900,000 (50% more than the leading Democrat), but 90% has been frittered away with little to show for it. His campaign reports disclose substantial fundraising expenses, large wireless bills and high bank fees from a Virginia bank (including bounced check charges). The capable, articulate and moderate (almost liberal) McGivney will run well in her home turf and in less conservative additions to the district (Maplewood and portions of Richmond Heights, Clayton and University City). It is unclear whether Federer’s well-publicized legal hassles with a vindictive Gephardt campaign will draw sympathy from GOP voters or leave them wanting to try someone new. Federer has greater name recognition and intense loyalty from Religious Right voters, so the primary is his to lose.

Libertarian Kevin Babcock has no primary opposition.

The following addenda was published July 27, 2004, under Comments to the original piece:

Cross impact with Holden-McCaskill: I don't think the 3rd Dist primary impacts the gubernatorial primary meaningfully. However, I think the Holden-McCaskill race will increase turnout, and this highlights the factor I think many commentators have either missed or underestimated: the impact of the underinformed voter. Many people who don't ordinarily vote in primaries but who want to vote for or against Holden or McCaskill or for or against a contstitutional amendment will participate. They are very informed about the contest drawing them to the polls, but not necessarily about other contests. Some of those won't vote in the contests where they are underinformed, but many feel compelled to vote anyway. These are the "marginally inattentive" voters who are swayed by name recognition, tv ads and bandwagon perceptions (the desire to vote for the winner). Unless Carnahan's slippage can be better publicized outside of chat among political junkies (the marginally inattentive voter doesn't know this blog exists, and wouldn't bother to visit even if they did), the Holden-McCaskill turnout will favor the candidates on TV, and especially Carnahan. Other monied candidates could deflate this by running ads publicizing the slippage of support for Carnahan.

Jean Carnahan's tv ads backing Holden will help Russ Carnahan among Holden voters. In a 10-way race (Evans will remain on the ballot) won by a plurality, appealing to 45% supporting Holden is more important than repelling the 55% who oppose him. (Yes, I believe McCaskill will win by at least 10 points.)

Post's endorsement: It certainly enhances Mark Smith's credibility, but the importance of the Post endorsement diminishes every year. Circulation is down, and more people read (and give credence to) Jo Mannies' weekly column than the Post's daily editorial page. Most voters learn about the endorsement from ads of the endorsed candidate, not by actually seeing the editorial. The endorsement will help Mark take some liberal votes away from Jeff Smith and also some "marginally inattentive" votes away from Carnahan. But not very many.

More Mark Smith: A high-profile Barry supporter admits that Mark has the most effective tv spots. Of course, the "same high school as Dick Gephardt" line also describes GOP's Joan McGivney (and me for that matter).

I actually believe that Barry's own spots are the smartest. While she looks a little out of place appearing to direct the firefighters, her effective identification of herself with health care ties in with what's on many voters' minds right now.

Losing to a Republican? Some folks opposed to Jeff Smith are raising the spectre that he's so liberal he'll lose the general election. Not gonna happen. Joyce Aboussie redistricted the 3rd, removing Republican Sunset Hills and most of Tesson Ferry Township and substituting more St Louis City plus Democratic strongholds in Maplewood, eastern Clayton and Richmond Heights and southern U City. A Republican could carry Jefferson County and south St. Louis County, but Democrat majorities elsewhere would more than make up the difference. Democrats should pray that the RNCC targets this race, wasting its money here and making some other district more vulnerable to Democratic turnover. Even I couldn't lose this district if I were the Democratic nominee.

IRV: Maybe the 75% who end up supporting a losing candidate will be more interested in Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) after the primary.

The following addenda was published July 28, 2004, under Comments to the original piece:

Strong grassroots efforts are more important in low turnout elections than in high turnout elections. The people who are added to turnout by grassroots efforts fit the "motivated voter" definition. The 200-500 people (who otherwise wouldn't have voted) that Jeff Smith's coffees and other grassroots efforts motivate to vote are minor compared to the number of marginal nonvoters who are motivated to vote for or against constitutional amendments or for or against a high-profile gubernatorial candidate. The, say, 500 extra people that grassroots efforts get to the polls are more important in a 30,000-voter election than in a 50-100,000 voter turnout in the Democratic primary. (40,000 voted for Gephardt running unopposed in the last presidential year primary.) It's that extra several thousand voters that change a low turnout into a high turnout that comprise the "marginally inattentive" voting bloc that, sadly, will decide this election.

I wrote the following comment on August 1, under the "More back and forth" item on the Arch City Chronicle web site:

Carnahan will get a significant percentage of the vote in every region, not just home base. He could win the whole district without winning any political subdivision, by finishing a respectable 2nd or 3rd everywhere, behind different regional leaders. I'm sticking with my earlier prediction: Russ Carnahan rides the large, turnout-swelling wave of "underinformed" voters to victory.