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Friday | September 19, 2003

Show Me State could show us a Democratic senator again

By Stephen Yellin

For our party to regain the Senate in 2004 (a difficult task), we have to be able to win races that lean Republican, but are competitive. One such race is Missouri. Traditionally a competitive border state (going to Clinton in 1992 and 1996, but to Bush in 2000), with reasonably close elections down the ballot, it offers an opportunity for Democrats to challenge Republican incumbents.

Senator Christopher "Kit" Bond is running for a 4th term, after winning with 53% in 1998. He won that race by holding his Republican base and by doing well among black voters, who mistrusted Democratic AG Jay Nixon. Nixon drew 44%. In 1992, Bond won 52-46% over Geri-Rothman Serot, a councilwoman who raised few funds. Finally, Bond won a open seat in 1986 to succeed Senator Tom Eagleton, defeating Lt. Governor Harriet Woods by a narrow margin. So, despite his incumbency and his reputation for bringing in the bacon, Bond's track record indicates that he's vulnerable.

This is confirmed by a DSCC poll that shows him with a 41% reelect number. While DSCC polls, like all partisan polls, help its party with numbers, it does have a track record of identifying vulnerable GOP incumbents. For example, Senator Spence Abraham (R-Michigan) had a 41% reelect number in 1999, and he lost narrowly in 2000 to Debbie Stabenow. Senator Tim Hutchinson in 2001 had a 39% reelect number, and he lost big time to Mark Pryor in Arkansas. So, the DSCC poll, plus the Show Me State's competitive past, suggests Bond is vulnerable. But can Nancy Farmer, the State Treasurer, beat him?

I say that she can, and here are three reasons why:

  1. Farmer is a strong candidate -- she may be softspoken, but she carries a big stick, as Teddy Roosevelt said. In 2000, when she ran for State Treasurer, she was given no chance to beat Todd Graves, a popular County Prosecuter. Outspent 3:1, she upset Graves by a 51-45% margin. Why? Because she ran a smart campaign that counted on support from women and rural groups.

  2. Name ID -- It's true that Farmer doesn't have much of this. Indeed, in the DSCC poll taken last month she was known by only 1/4th of the state's voters. However, she still outran her name recognition by 13%, trailing Bond by a 11 point margin (50-39). In addition, the simple name "Farmer" was a big hit in 2000 with rural groups in the state, and she ran strong amongst them. Once voters get to know her, she will do much better against Bond. In fact, the DSCC poll has her LEADING Bond amongst voters who know both candidates (46-45%).

  3. National Help -- Farmer was recruited by Senator Jon Corzine to run for this seat. I met Senator Corzine yesterday at a local Democratic event, and he mentioned Farmer to me as a viable candidate. The DSCC will undoubtedly help her win. In addition, the women's fundraising group Emily's List has endorsed Farmer and will help significantly with her fundraising.
It's true, Bond starts off with all the advantages of incumbancy. But as this race progresses, Nancy Farmer has a legitimate chance of becoming Missouri's first female elected Senator.

Posted September 19, 2003 10:49 AM | Comments (59)


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