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.

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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here in KC I'd say McCaskill got a fair amount of progressive support, while Holden was backed by the mainline Democrats. Another significant wrinkle in this contest was the gulf between party leaders and regular Dems, as evidenced by the large margin of victory.

Anyway, great blog. Welcome to the blogosphere!

August 13, 2004 at 6:38 AM  
Blogger TN liberal said...

I can not believe that you claim Favazza had a strong grassroots effort.

While Favazza ran an impressive campaign given his budget, it was by no stretch of the imagination a grassroots effort. Here is a summary of his campaigns activities:
1) He used his eight kids to drop his lit with pizza flyers at every door in the city (most of his flyers were wasted on households that that did not have registered voters)
2) He plastered his yard signs in every illegal space across "the hill"
3) He flyered catholic churches from U-City to St. Gen. with his pro-life lit
4) He went door to door asking for yard signs and votes.

I am sick of candidates and pundits alike throwing around the words grassroots without feeling the gravity of the word. Grassroots means that you have built a volunteer army that is spreading your message virally. Grassroots means that you have brought new people into the political process. A grassroots campaign means that you have somehow impassioned activists to believe that that they can bring about the change that they wish to see in the world. Favazza did many things. He ran an impressive campaign, but under no circumstances can his success be attributed to grassroots. If you want to look at a real grassroots campaign than look at JEFF SMITH or Howard Dean…that is grassroots.

August 13, 2004 at 7:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Russ Carnahan has a track record of pissing away huge advantages and winning elections with less than 1% of the vote based on his family's good name. It's pretty pathetic. That being said... I agree with your analysis that Russ will win with a much larger margin than Gephardt. Gephardt built up a long list of enemies (even in his party) over 18 years and Federer is a real freak show of a candidate. If Russ wins by anything less than 20% it will be another major disapointment.

The good news is that we should keep this seat in Democratic hands. The bad news is that unless someone challenges him in 2006 this seat is likely to stay in the hands of the useless NAME for a couple of decades or even worse fall to a more polished Republican when the RNC realizes they have an opportunity to pick off a Democratic seat held by one of the worst congressman and campaigners in the nation. The only thing worse than a Clay, Akin, Carnahan congressional delegation for St. Louis is a Clay, Akin, Federer delegation. At least no one can say that our delegation is reflective of the overall standing of St. Louis over the past several decades.... Ugh!

August 14, 2004 at 11:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Russ will be a 3 term congressman. Governor Blunt, with his GOP hordes controling the Leg, will move this district in 6 years. It will almost certainly move out of the city altogether, and move more south. Someone from Jefferson County might win it, but it will almost certainly be a 50-50 or republican majority district, and might very well be lost. I hear Ann Wagner already has a "dream" map they wanted passed last time. I can only imagine what evil they will concoct that Russ won't be able to stop.

August 14, 2004 at 4:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't count on Russ making it for more than one term. I predict that Russ (Nothing But Name) Carnahan will lose in either a primary of general election in 2006. The Republicans are going to look to take advantage of the fact that Russ is destined to be one of the worst candidates and congressman in the congress. Republicans will put up a strong moderate to try to steal what should be a safe Democratic seat. There has been a lot of buyer's remorse among Democrats over Carnahan's narrow victory over Jeff Smith. Faced with an embarrassment for a congressman and the possibility of Russ blowing a safe Democratic seat the Democrats will support a strong primary opponent (rematch with J. Smith?) to ensure the seat stays safe and St. Louis has some decent representation. The secret is out in Democratic circles that Russ is in WAY over is head. The good news is that he will win in 04 and be gone by 06. A stronger Democrat in the 3rd may lead to a different redistricting outcome in 2010.

August 16, 2004 at 3:41 PM  
Blogger Norm Pressman said...

Ladies and Gentlemen-including those of you who are afraid to sign their names.

Why did Russ win?-I guess because he had more votes that the other candidates-and you know what there were probably a bunch of people who voted against him because of his name-I know some.

What you fail to understand is that we have a party system. Russ (and his family) have stood for certain principles-these are principles which go across the wide spectrum of Democrat values-He will represent this district well. As far as defending the seat-if Russ can't defend it even after the 2010 redistricitng no one will be able to. Yes I do think Jeff Smith did pretty well and he had a pretty good machine-but he made mistakes also-probably a few that we need not discuss and which may have been the difference. Frankly I think Federer could have beaten Jeff-and yes I know the district is supposedly safe.

The bottom line is we need more Democrats in office-talk of running against Russ in 2006 is nuts-and will do nothing but waste money and encourage right wing nut jobs in the GOP.

I've got a good idea-If those of you who think Jeff did a good job should try again maybe you should start a Jeff Smith for Auditor committee right now and stake claim to an early spot to an early position. The way I see it Ms. M. will need all the help she can get and a pledge to endorse Jeff-now might actually be worth something in the Western part of the state. The auditor position is obviously a stepping stone-and I am afraid we are going to need one come Novermber 3.

September 1, 2004 at 4:31 PM  

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