Archive for the ‘Ann Wagner’ Category

Hostility to women not responsible for Wagner’s withdrawal

The Unablogger

Consistent with the mainsteam media’s continuing campaign to paint the Republican Party as inhospitable to women, Roll Call published a Nathan Gonzales column blaming perceived GOP hostility to women for the withdrawal of Congresswoman Ann Wagner from consideration for the GOP nomination to oppose Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill’s reelection next year. Gonzales is wrong.

Wagner was justifiably concerned about two sources of opposition to her candidacy within her party. The first and best known, and touched on by Gonzales, is the effort by establishment party elders like former Sen. Jack Danforth (generally regarded as the father of the 1970s Republican revival in Missouri) to get newly elected Attorney General Josh Hawley into the race instead of Wagner. Sam Fox, a major Missouri Republican donor and Danforth ally, had publicly urged Republican donors to hold off donating to any senate contenders until Hawley decided whether to enter the contest. That put a slight crimp in Wagner’s impressive early fundraising. Danforth and Fox’s motives were not sexist; they were based on concerns that Wagner might not be a strong enough candidate to beat McCaskill, or at least not as strong as Hawley would be. Hawley led the Republican ticket last year with 58.5% of the vote in the first statewide Republican sweep in Missouri in nearly a century. It is important for Republicans, both in Missouri and nationally, to take down McCaskill in 2018, important enough to go with their best shot, not just good enough to get it done with no margin of error. That’s how the establishment thinks, and in this case it makes sense.

The second and less publicized source of concern was vocal opposition to Wagner from the Tea Party faction. While Wagner scores relatively well on national measures of conservatism (88% American Conservative Union rating for 2016, but only 63% on the Heritage Action scorecard), the Tea Party is angered by her actions and votes designed to benefit Big Business donors at the expense of fiscal responsibility, a core Tea Party value. Wagner’s vote to save the Export-Import Bank is an example. The Tea Party regards Wagner and Sen. Roy Blunt as part of the pay-to-play swamp that President Trump wants to drain.

Another possible GOP senate contender, especially if dream candidate Hawley opts out, is Rep. Vicky Hartzler from western Missouri. I have heard no Tea Party complaints about Hartzler, who sports an excellent 2016 ACA rating of 96, although she scores only slightly better than Wagner on the Heritage Action scorecard with 69%. If any sexism exists towards Missouri Republican women, it rests with Gonzales, who indirectly dismissed Hartzler by calling Wagner “the GOP’s . . . only top-tier female hopeful,” even though Hartzler has won more elections and served longer in Congress than Wagner. Hartzler won her seat in the Tea Party revolt of 2010, prevailing over a tough primary field before unseating venerable 34-year incumbent Rep. Ike Skelton. At the time, Skelton was chair of the House Armed Services Committee.

Like the establishment elders, the Tea Party opposition to Wagner has nothing to do with gender; unlike the establishment elders, it has everything to do with policy concerns. While the establishment is quite comfortable with Wagner’s policies, the Tea Party is not.

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Quick observations of 2016 election returns

The Unablogger

The Unablogger

Outsiders win (mostly). The upset wins by President-elect Donald Trump, Governor-elect Eric Greitens and Attorney General-elect Josh Hawley demonstrated that the attraction of political outsiders did not end with the primaries. Voters wanted change, and they’ll get it, although both Trump and Greitens will be tested by their legislatures, including those from their own party.

Things were different in congressional races. In spite of Congress’ historically low approval ratings, only seven incumbent U.S. House members and two senators lost their seats last month. In Missouri, Sen. Roy Blunt won re-election in a race he was expected to lose, and all eight congressmen won re-election easily, albeit against underfunded challengers. All but one of the Missouri congressional contests produced a greater share for the Republican candidate (whether incumbent or challenger) than in the last presidential election in 2012 (including Jason Smith, whose 2012 total was earned by his popular predecessor, Jo Ann Emerson). The exception was Republican Ann Wagner, who trailed her 2012 share even though she didn’t have the benefit of incumbency back then, when she was first elected. Wagner generated resentment from Trump loyalists when she unendorsed Trump after the release of the Billy Bush video, but her congressional district was also the one Missouri district where Trump ran behind Mitt Romney’s 2012 pace.

Robin Smith’s candidacy was a dud. Well-known former television news anchor Robin Smith, a Democrat, was expected to run a decent campaign for Missouri Secretary of State. Democratic party leaders, paying homage to identity politics, had discouraging all but token primary opposition so she could be in a position to become the first African American elected to statewide office. While her general election opponent, Republican Jay Ashcroft, enjoyed the good will attached to his namesake father, popular former Gov. and Sen. John Ashcroft, the younger Ashcroft’s own electoral record was not good. His only prior stab at elective office was in 2014, a very Republican year, when he lost an open St. Louis County state senate seat then held by a Republican. Smith’s candidacy was actively publicized by the St. Louis American, St. Louis’ leading weekly newspaper primarily serving the African American community. While 2016 turned out to be a difficult year for Missouri Democrats, that fails to explain how poorly she fared compared to other Democrats on the ticket. Among the seven statewide Democratic candidates, Smith’s vote percentage was next to last, not only statewide but also in both St. Louis City and County, where Smith was best known.

A possible lesson here is that St. Louis voters have not reacted well to former news personalities seeking public office. Former KSDK reporter Mike Owens won less than 33% in a 2012 Democratic primary for state representative in a contest in which he was the only white, with two black candidates splitting the rest of the vote, and running with the support of his wife, influential Alderman (and possible future mayor) Lyda Krewson and her effective ward organization. Also, back around 1980, former KSDK anchor Bob Chase, a Republican, lost twice running for Congress in St. Louis County.

Paying the price for guessing wrong on Trump. Before Trump’s surge following the announced reopening of the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton, establishment Republicans tried to distance themselves from a nominee they regarded as a sure loser. They portrayed their decisions not to endorse their party’s standard bearer as a matter of principle, but everyone knew they thought that’s what they needed to do to save their own hides. Well, they guessed wrong about Trump, and many of them paid the price they were trying to avoid. Both incumbent Republican U.S. Senators and four of the six incumbent Republican congressmen to lose re-election, as well as the losing Republican who had the best chance to win a Democrat-held senate seat, were candidates who at some point (after the primaries) publicly rejected Trump. Rep. Ann Wagner of St. Louis County, who, as noted above, retracted her endorsement of Trump (though later announced she would vote for him), easily won re-election to her safe Republican seat, but was Missouri’s only Republican congressional candidate to get a lower share of the vote this year than in 2012.