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In the wake of their stunning sweep of virtually every race in which they had a viable candidate last November, the Missouri GOP has started to look like the dog that finally caught the car…Yeah, they caught it, but so what? They can’t drive, either.

They would dearly love to take the Governor’s mansion next year and remove that check on our batshit-crazy legislature. They were tea-party before there was a movement known as the tea party. Since they snagged majorities in 2000 thanks to term limits, they have been intent on turning us into a bigger laughing stock than Texas, and on more than a few occasions they have realized success, to the embarrassment and chagrin of every Democrat and non-crazy republican in the state.

As ardently as the GOP lusts after the Governorship, they don’t have a single candidate to put up against Landslide Jay.

Yes, I know that Lt. Governor Peter Kinder, bicycling enthusiast and manic Twitter user, is running but that doesn’t mean that the GOP has a candidate.

Kinder is a joke, and that is putting it kindly.

He can’t win, and the party establishment knows it.

Missouri Republicans are growing increasingly despondent about their chances of reclaiming the governor’s mansion in 2012. Peter Kinder, the front-runner for the GOP nod, hasn’t even officially launched a campaign yet – but he’s already being privately written off by members of his own party.

What’s worse: They believe the lieutenant governor’s bizarre antics and undisciplined behavior have turned him into a punchline who could become a heavy drag at the top of the ticket.

It’s not that first-term Gov. Jay Nixon is invincible. While popular and mostly noncontroversial, he’s still a Democrat in a reddening battleground state that President Obama failed to carry in 2008.

The overwhelming concern — expressed in interviews by multiple GOP lawmakers and several party insiders — is that Kinder lacks the political acumen and personal likeability necessary to upend an incumbent.

“I don’t think he has a chance to beat Gov. Nixon. Every single person that I’ve talked to feels the same way,” said one GOP state senator, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “Everybody loves Jay Nixon and I have to say he’s done a pretty good job. The people I’ve talked to are just resigned to the fact that [Kinder’s] going to run and lose.”

I realize that Missouri is redder than it was when I was growing up, but I still have to take issue with Catanese on his assertion that Missouri is a “reddening battleground.” I don’t think so. I think Missouri has reached the saturation point and isn’t going to get any redder than it is right now. He points out that President Obama failed to carry the state — but doesn’t mention that he lost by less than 4000 votes out of approximately three million cast, nor does he mention that the state wasn’t called for McCain for two weeks after the election. He also leaves out that Obama probably won it, if the provisional ballots cast in inner-city St. Louis and Kansas City had been counted. Not to mention, the President picked up those 4000 votes in Joplin a couple of weeks ago, and probably would have even if Eric Cantor had kept his craven and cruel mouth shut.

We Missouri Democrats are constantly joking about sending him a gift basket because every time something hits the news that might prove embarrassing for Democrats — Jay Nixon and his travel travails or Claire McCaskill and the back-taxes issue on her husband’s privatee plane, for example — here comes Kinder to deflect attention from the Democrats by having it revealed that he spent approximately two months of last year hanging out in a luxury hotel in St. Louis and billing the taxpayers of the state.

Then there was the stolen car fiasco. He left his keys in his Ford Flex on a visit back home, and the car was not merely stolen, but used in a burglary, then abandoned and torched.

It all adds up to a state GOP that is starting to get a little bit panicked, with insiders saying among themselves that “somebody else better get in the race.” But even if they do, Kinder isn’t going to be dissuaded, even though he can’t possibly win. “He’s got a worse start than [former Rep. Kenny] Hulshof and that’s really saying something. Hulshof was a lack of excitement, not a lack of talent. He was a decent, talented guy,” said one former state senator. “The bottom’s falling out even before we’ve got the bucket under the faucet.”