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The Missouri AFL-CIO has announced that in the primary contest for the 1st Congressional District that is shaping up between Democratic Reps. Russ Carnahan and Lacy Clay Jr., they’re going with Clay – and it seems like a smart move as long as the Union wants to back a winner. As the St. Louis American noted earlier this year, Clay’s support in the district seems seriously solid.

For what it’s worth to the few readers of my posts, I’m going with Clay too. It doesn’t have anything to do with his chances, or his positions. As far as I’m concerned, Clay and Carnahan are six of one and half-dozen of the other. Both have taken positions I approve and both have occasionally disappointed me. I may have sometimes wished that Carnahan wasn’t quite so charisma-challenged, but that’s neither here nor there.  Both are Democrats and Missouri needs more of them in the U.S. House, not fewer. And Carnahan, by his decision to run in the 1st district rather than in the open 2nd, has really tipped the scales in favor of fewer Democrats. And I hold it against him; I don’t really endorse Clay over Carnahan, but I oppose Carnahan out of pure spite.

The same St. Louis American article repeated the story I’ve been hearing from other sources for a few months now. The Democratic party would have given Carnahan almost “unlimited financial support” if he had only agreed to take on Ann Wagner, who will undoubtedly prevail in the GOP primary for the 2nd District seat:

Meanwhile, next door in Missouri’s open 2nd CD, the primary has been held open for Carnahan, national Democratic leaders have offered him lavish money and unlimited support, and the district leans only slightly Republican, about 53 percent. So the math is clear and inescapable – the only congressional run that Carnahan can win in 2012 is in Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District.

Does Carnahan really think that the race in the 1st is going to be easier to win?

I’ve lived out here in what has been (shudder) Todd Akin’s preserve for the past ten years. It’s conservative, sure – but not monolithic. I’ve seen Akin take the district in election after election not because he’s especially beloved (or even respected), but arguably because the challengers have been weak, or disengaged, and the party offered no, nil, nada support, preferring to cede the election to Akin in order to channel resources into more secure races – a strategy I understand when there’s only so much to go around and you don’t have really strong candidates. But it could’ve been different this time.

If Carnahan had been willing to think about the good of the Party rather than the good of Carnahan, he would have run against Wagner and, for once, we would have had, win or loose, a real race, a real chance to send a Democrat from the 2nd district to Washington. There would have been three seats in play as opposed to just two – and there’s no way that’s not better for the Party, the State and the Nation. On a personal level, thanks to Carnahan, while I will no longer be represented in Congress by theocratic Republican Akin, I’ll likely be writing futile constituent letters to the corporatist Republican Wagner. The sad part of the whole story is that it’s not even clear that Carnahan made the best decision for himself.