Let’s set the table for what is destined to be an emotional, and highly impactful, week ahead for the Missouri GOP.
The centerpiece of the next seven days will be Tuesday’s funeral for former state Auditor Tom Schweich in his hometown of Clayton.
While statewide leaders have worked hard to push politics to the side the last few days, as they should have, the long-term political implications of Schweich’s death are now emerging.
What his passing means for freshly minted party chairman John Hancock, leading GOP consultants, and Catherine Hanaway, who now ranks as the undisputed Republican gubernatorial frontrunner, will be at the forefront of the next seven days.
Let’s run down those implications:
1) One big question is what former Missouri Sen. Jack Danforth will say in his eulogy for Schweich on Tuesday. Danforth was Schweich’s political mentor, and some wonder whether he will address the so-called whispering campaign about Schweich’s Jewish heritage.
GOP sources said this weekend that they expect Danforth to meet that issue head on. That could have grave implications for Hancock, who is at the center of that dispute and was elected chair just eight days ago at Reagan Lincoln Days in Kansas City.
Hancock has acknowledged that he might have mentioned to some Republicans his belief that Schweich was Jewish. But he denied that he was trying to smear the candidate.
2) Another emerging story line is whether GOP consultants went too far in the days leading up to Lincoln Days with an anti-Schweich radio add that you can hear here.
This kind of ad is bound to get renewed scrutiny in the wake of Schweich’s suicide.
3) Republicans said this weekend that they expect calls for Hancock’s resignation to go public once Schweich’s funeral has passed.
Sources said several Republicans had called Hancock directly and told him he needed to go. His response so far has been to release a letter detailing his side of the story.
Whether Hancock can stave off the pressure remains to be seen.
Party leaders, including Sen. Roy Blunt, so far have remained mum on the issue.
4) Meanwhile, Republicans all over the state are wondering about the implications for Hanaway’s campaign. Before becoming chair, Hancock did some work for Hanaway. The anti-Schweich radio ad is also thought to have originated with Hanaway allies.
So far, Hanaway has denied any involvement with the ad. She suspended weekend campaign events out of respect for Schweich.
5) Some Republicans expect other gubernatorial candidates to emerge once the funeral passes. Among the names mentioned are St. Louis businessman John Brunner and 3rd District Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer.
Bottom line: As distasteful as the thought of politics is right now, the political implications of Tom Schweich’s death will reverberate for days, and weeks, to come with perhaps profound implications for the 2016 race.