Presidential hopes in Missouri for the Democrats have faded long ago, but Missouri Democrats are still able to win down ballot races. Usually, due to incumbency advantage, Senators run ahead of their party’s presidential nominees (example: Claire McCaskill (D-MO) in 2012), but this is not the case for Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), who faces an uphill reelection battle against little-known Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander.
Roy Blunt (R)
First elected in 2010, 1 term
Jason Kander (D)
Missouri Secretary of State, 2 terms
Kander’s campaign was really a long shot (see prediction section) before some miracle happened in early July that a Public Policy poll showed Kander down only three points. The same poll showed Trump up 10 points ahead of Clinton. A St. Louis Dispatch poll conducted a few days later confirmed the race is within five points, but this poll showed Clinton ahead in the presidential race. (The poll was conducted during Clinton’s postconvention bounce period.) Later polls all showed Blunt ahead with a small lead, until this, probably the best political ad regarding gun control ever, sending a strong signal to the conservative pro-gun Missouri while also playing with the gun control message supported by almost 90% of the American population, including 80% of Republicans. After the release of this ad, both sides now recognize this race as a tossup and DSCC pulled in swing state resources to help Kander.
In addition, “Washington (or state capital name) is broken, we need to fix it” has become the standard-bearer of politicians running for office nationwide, and in this anti-establishment year, this message has become surprisingly effective. Bernie Sanders almost upset Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump won his party’s presidential nomination. Both candidates ran as outsiders, and their messages resonate well with the voters, who disapproved Congressional performance 7-1.
Blunt’s establishment Republican position angers Missouri voters who seek change in government. Before Blunt was elected a Senator, he was House Minority whip, second ranking Republican in the House, although he departed from the position after Republicans’ successive losses in the House. A Monmouth poll shows Blunt only having 80% of Republican support (11% goes to Kander), while Kander has 90% Democratic support, with only 5% going to Blunt. The same poll shows Kander with a 62-32 lead over Blunt in moderate voters’ views. The poll also shows both Blunt and Kander is becoming more unfavorable (compared to August), but Kander’s net favorability rating is still at +19, 1 point down from August’s +20, whereas Blunt’s net favorability has become negative.
This race might just be a replay of Arizona’s Senate race of 2012, but the R nominee for president is much more unfavorable among ordinary Americans than Mitt Romney is. If Trump gets trumped by Clinton in the 3rd debate, he would be starting to drag down downballot Republicans, making 2016, otherwise a Republican golden opportunity to expand their majority in both houses of the Congress, a 2006-style Democratic wave.