Hillary Clinton will visit Missouri on Tuesday. She’s running for president — you may have heard that — and she’s raising money in St. Louis, which is where you go in the state if you’re looking for donations.
A year from now, we almost certainly will know the presidential nominees of both major parties. Clinton remains the favorite for the Democrats. Republicans have some serious work to do before settling on a ticket.
What we don’t know is whether Missouri’s voters will play any significant role in the 2016 White House campaign.
The quick answer is no. On the presidential level, Missouri clearly is more Republican now than in the past. In 2012, both major-party nominees skipped the state, and Republican Mitt Romney beat Democrat Barack Obama by 10 percentage points. It was the fourth straight GOP presidential win in Missouri, a record that suggests Democrats would be wasting their time if they made any effort in the state in 2016.
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Missourians who are not TV broadcasters are probably grateful for this. The state’s non-bellwether status means TV screens can remain blissfully free of accusatory ads in the campaign’s closing days. It also means voters can focus on state and local races.
Nevertheless, there are signs that Missouri’s political pros are rethinking the state’s presidential profile.
Some Democrats think the state may be winnable. Jay Nixon was elected and re-elected governor here, they say, proof that centrist Democrats who run the right campaign can compete. Sen. Claire McCaskill also has cracked the code. And who was the last Democratic presidential nominee to win in Missouri? Why, Bill Clinton, back in 1996.
Hillary Clinton now has a campaign office in Missouri and is lining up endorsements from the state party’s elite.
Mostly, though, Democrats think a woman at the top of the ticket would upset easy analysis of the 2016 presidential contest in the state. They say Clinton would bring more occasional voters into play — perhaps giving her a chance in Missouri, at least as good as in other battleground states such as Virginia and North Carolina.
Republicans laugh and rub their hands. Sure, they say, let Hillary spend time and cash in Missouri. The GOP nominee, whomever it turns out to be, will appreciate the wasted effort.
A competitive presidential campaign in 2016 would change the calculations for statewide races such as governor and the U.S. Senate. So Missouri’s political community will be watching St. Louis carefully to see whether it represents something more than a quick visit to pick up campaign cash.