The race for Missouri Auditor is typically low-key enough that it can be overlooked. The primary for Missouri Auditor has that same problem, only worse.
For those of you who haven’t heard, the Republican Primary for Auditor is between Allen Icet (Architect of the House Republican Budget) and Tom Schweich (Who flirted with running with the Senate last year). Tom Schweich has a bit of a problem, he donated money to Claire McCaskill. Not in 2006 when she was running for the Senate, but 2001 when she was about to run for re-election as Auditor (McCaskill won re-election in 2002 by one of the larger margins ever, because her Republican opponent was an ex-felon who was ignored by the Republican establishment).
Dave Catanese of Politico has an idea for how Tom Schweich can make Republicans overlook the donation and like him again:
“Schweich should devote a speech to his $500 contrib. to @clairecmc. Say if the GOP wants to b party that excludes indys, it won’t prevail.”
“Bad buzz about Schweich from even those who support him. He’s steamed he has a primary when he cut a deal. Ala Crist, welcome to the NFL.”
“GOPer says Schweich needs to learn from @RoyBlunt in approach. Roy takes his licks, but smiles, brushes off like Jay-Z. Schweich gets mad.”
Now, lets say that the “Schweich handling rejection” (or “Schweich mad that he wasn’t annointed”) thing is true. Then a speech about the Republicans not prevailing without independents could have negligible impact or backfire. You could argue that angry sermons to Republicans only work when the person preaching is not criticizing the Republicans.
Not to mention that the story of a 2001 donation can’t be condensed into a favorable way. Tom Schweich was a Republican when he donated money to McCaskill in 2001 and it’d be a stretch to say that rejecting him would be akin to casting Independents aside. Oh yeah, Schweich’s website features endorsements by Peter Kinder and John Bolton, and notes that Mitt Romney will be headlining a Schweich fundraiser. So that double pivot and twirl from dining with prominent Republicans to claiming appeal to Independents is a tough move to pull in political figure skating.
Sure, if John McCain can claim to be a maverick in 2008, Tom Schweich can claim to be anything in 2010. But there are other problems with the donation.
The Auditors primary is going to be low visibility. The people who are going to be avidly paying attention to this primary are Conservative Republican Activists, Political Nerds, and every once and awhile, the media is going to mention something. The race for Auditor will never get the same enthusiasm as Roy Blunt v. Chuck Purgason v. the 7 Others.
The Republicans who are paying attention to an auditor primary can be tilted by an Icet one-two punch where Icet talks about how he was “fiscally conservative” as a Budget committee chair and he could find ways to make himself seem more authentically Republican than Schweich.
Authenticity. Dave Catanese says that Republicans seek it. But could they be seeking someone who can make them think that he’s an authentic Conservative over someone who has lots of candor?
Dave Catanese also mentioned that Republicans like Claire McCaskill more than they would ever admit. As to how much that’d bounce Claire McCaskill’s approval ratings is unknown. But in the scheme of things Diehard Republicans typically don’t like Democrats enough to vote for them or like them. Social Conservatives and Tea Partiers can find their reasons to claim a dislike of Claire McCaskill, and reminding them that you gave money to Claire McCaskill nine years ago will probably not help your Republican primary bid.
Spurning independent voters is a good way to lose elections. Republicans appear to have their eyes set on winning Independent voters through complete coincidence instead of any special effort. Take the Specter situation, the Charlie Crist situation, and that fact that almost every Republican in DC has an identical voting record on the big issues. If you’re a voter who only dislikes Obama on an issue or two, Republicans hope that you’ll vote for a candidate who dislikes Obama on every major issue.
Could Susan Montee lose re-election? Maybe. If Martha Coakley could lose to Scott Brown, anything is possible. Will Susan Montee run ahead of the average Democrat? Probably. Will Susan Montee run ahead of Robin Carnahan? Maybe. Do Republicans have such a need to win back the Auditor’s office that they’d do something other than picking the candidate more like them ideologically to carry that torch? Nope.
If you forced me to start gambling on elections, i’d put my money on Allen Icet right now. The donation isn’t the only reason. Allen Icet also has a more obvious geographic stronghold (West County). He should have statewide connections. He can make the case that he’s really fiscally conservative (so much so that his budget committee passed a budget cutting meals on wheels). Allen Icet is a good bet, even if Tom Schweich had never made a donation to Claire McCaskill.
But somethings are hard to get over, no matter much candor you show. Sometimes candor can help you out. Sometimes candor is like running towards the Bulls in Pamplona.
I’ll keep my eyes on the Auditor primary. We might see some actual news coming out of this one.