Sabatos Crystal Ball

Missouri Races

House Outlook for 2008

Will the GOP Swing the Pendulum Back?

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Missouri (06)

Outlook: Leans Republican


June 10, 2008 Update:

Republican Rep. Sam Graves and his Democratic challenger Kay Barnes have gotten into the most publicized ad war of the cycle so far. Graves is calling Barnes out for her ”San Francisco values,” while Barnes’ response ads highlight the negative nature of Graves’ ads and the incumbent’s fundraising from oil companies. Graves’ ads are notable both for their poor production values, the three young people dancing arhythmically in front of a bar is a sight to remember, and the time at which they are being run: two months before the primary even takes place.

The early ad battle shows that both sides feel this is a very competitive race. It also demonstrates the financial arsenal with which each candidate is equipped. Both have raised around $1.5 million so far this cycle and have spent $450,000 each. The NRCC and DCCC watching this race closely, as Barnes is on the ”Red to Blue” list and Graves has already gotten some money from the ”ROMP” program. Missourians can expect a lot of outside attention, and money, to pour into the sixth district over the next few months.


Background

Democrats are excited about their nominee against Representative Sam Graves in Missouri’s fifth district, a typical GOP stronghold. Former Kansas City mayor Kay Barnes, who turned down a challenge in 06, entered early and seeks to capitalize on the revitalization of downtown Kansas City. Unfortunately for Barnes, only half of the district’s voters hail from the more liberal Kansas City suburbs, while the other half of the district sprawls across thinly-populated rural counties.

Both candidates are taking the race seriously: Barnes has already raised over $1M and Graves has already welcomed President Bush and Vice President Cheney to the district for fundraising events. In 2006, Senator Claire McCaskill narrowly won the district against Jim Talent, but Graves has not faced a competitive reelection race yet. The suspension of unpopular Republican Governor Matt Blunt’s gubernatorial bid gives Graves the opportunity to distance himself from the woes of the Missouri and focus on Barnes’ liberal cultural record as mayor. Normally, this district would be off the Crystal Ball radar, but with high-quality candidates on both sides, the race could be one of the most fascinating of 2008.

Candidates

Kay Barnes – Democrat – former mayor of Kansas City, professor at Park University
Website

Sam Graves, Jr. (I) – Republican – current Congressman
Website

Missouri (09) (Open Seat)

Outlook: Leans Republican


September 16, 2008 Update:

For two primaries that were up for grabs until election day, Republican Blaine Luetkemeyer and Democrat Judy Baker prevailed by surprisingly wide margins, 40-29 and 44-31 respectively. Luetkemeyer, who emerged from a crowded field by dipping into his personal wealth, is the slight favorite for now given the district’s conservative demographics. Expect Luetkemeyer to focus his campaign on his socially conservative views which seem more in line with the district’s ideological bent than Baker’s.

Conversely, Judy Baker, one of the more liberal candidates in the Democratic primary, must work hard to expand her base outside of the college town of Columbia and into the rural reaches of the district. The Democrat starts with a fighting chance, leading Luetkemeyer 41 to 39 in her campaign’s internal polling (remember, internal polling is notoriously optimistic) with many voters still undecided. Even if this polling lead is credible, this race won’t be a cakewalk for Baker in a district that gave former Senator Jim Talent 8% and George Bush 18% in the two previous elections.

June 10, 2008 Update:

With still two months to go until Missouri’s August 5th primary date, this race is as crowded as Arrowhead Stadium on a November Sunday. Five Republicans and four Democrats filed to run in their respective primaries, leaving handicappers without much of an idea about who the victors will be. The two candidates with the most money are Republican state representative Bob Onder who has raised $370,000 and Democratic state representative Judy Baker who has raised $216,000. Only one other candidate, Democratic county commissioner Lyndon Bode, has raised even $100,000.

Even with Onder’s big haul, he has spent just $1,000, indicative of his confidence that he will be the Republican nominee. Baker, on the other hand, is facing three opponents who all have spent $5,000 or more and one, Bode, who has spent over $65,000.

The salient issue in this nascent race thus far has been abortion. Onder even debated Democratic candidate and former state senator Ken Jacob on the issue, a rare event for two candidates of opposite parties who each still face a tough primary. Jacob pitches himself as the most ardent supporter of abortion rights, while Bode doesn’t hesitate to proclaim himself a pro-life Democrat.

There’s clearly a lot more race left to see here over the coming months. While Onder stands out among Republicans, Democrats have yet to coalesce around a true frontrunner and August 5th is a date all politicos should circle as this Show Me State primary is sure to be a dandy.


Background

Governor Matt Blunt’s surprise suspension of his reelection campaign set off a mad scramble in Missouri politics. Ahead of the filing deadline, longtime Representative Kenny Hulshof jumped into the crowded gubernatorial race and left his conservative district open to competition on both Republican and Democratic sides. Democrats are headed for a primary between state representative Judy Baker, ex-state house speaker Steve Gaw, and Marion County commissioner Lyndon Bode, with Gaw as an initial favorite.

On the Republican side, there are no announced candidates as of yet, but state Senator Bond’s Chief of Staff Jason Van Eaton and representatives Bob Onder, Joe Smith, and Ed Robb, and are mulling the race. The district went for Bush with 59% in 2004 and is tough sledding for Democrats, but any open seat has the potential to be contested in what appears to be a Democratic year.

Candidates

Judy Baker – Democrat – state representative
Website

Blaine Luetkemeyer – Republican – former state representative
Website