What killed Claire?
Weakness? McCaskill carried the city by over 82,000 votes, winning 77.8% of the vote. She would have liked to have been that “weak” everywhere! But the point is relative weakness, that is, compared to other Democrats in the same election.
While McCaskill ran nearly two percentage points better (1.8% to be exact) than Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry statewide, she ran 2.5 points behind Kerry in the city. She trailed Kerry in 26 of 28 wards, ran even with him in one and ahead of Kerry in just one. In St. Louis County, she ran ahead of Kerry, but by less than half a point.
Closer examination of the returns suggest why this may have been. The two wards where McCaskill matched or bettered Kerry were the city’s most conservative, southwest city’s 12th and 16th. In the more progressive wards where McCaskill trailed Kerry, her campaign’s attempts to blur the differences between herself and the conservative Blunt may have struck a sour chord with voters seeking genuine progressive leadership.
Moreover, in nine wards McCaskill even ran behind U.S. Senatorial nominee Nancy Farmer, whose doomed campaign against popular Sen. Kit Bond garnered Democrats’ lowest statewide percentage. And these wards weren’t anywhere near Farmer’s home base in Skinker-DeBalliviere. Seven of these wards (7, 9, 11, 15, 20, 24, 25) are in integrated white-majority areas, where many working young adults (the bourgeois bohemians or “bobos”) now call home. (The 20th has a black population majority but a white voting majority.) Most of them are south of I-44 and east of Grand.
What might have enticed up a couple thousand progressive Kerry-backing bobos to split their tickets for Blunt? It may well have been McCaskill’s own campaign. In a pre-election post (October 20), I speculated and warned that many of the young workers that Kerry’s campaign (and George Soros’ big-bucks GOTV efforts) were drawing to the polls were being repelled by the McCaskill campaign’s relentless belittling of 33-year-old Blunt’s age and accomplishments. In particular, the television and radio ads hypothesizing a Blunt job interview for the governor’s job with an obnoxious, condescending interviewer may have reminded young workers of their own unpleasant experiences in performance appraisals by unappreciative “dead wood” supervisors.
The same thing did not take place in Missouri’s other urban center, Kansas City. McCaskill enjoys great personal popularity there because of her service there as both a state representative and county prosecutor. Kansas City voters regarded her as one of their own. McCaskill’s ads deftly highlighted that Kansas City service without ever mentioning that she had moved away to St. Louis County.