If you were wondering why Republican Govs. Rick Perry of Texas and Rick Scott of Florida were weighing in on Missouri politics this week, join the crowd.
Perplexing, it was.
Perry spent a good chunk of his week talking about the big tax cut bill Nixon vetoed this summer. He characterized Nixon’s move in a radio ad as “the same thing as raising your taxes” and told a St. Louis area audience that an expected veto override attempt next month is “all about the future of this state.”
Scott also chimed in, sending a letter to Missouri businesses urging them to come to Florida.
That’s a lot of out-of-state attention. On Friday, the theory as to why Messrs. Perry and Scott were so wrapped up in Missouri had a lot less to do with the tax cut and a whole lot more with politics 2016.
Among Republicans, there’s a lot of concern that Nixon, a Democrat who easily won re-election in November, will fulfill what clearly ranks as a career goal — win a seat in the U.S. Senate.
Roy Blunt, a Republican senator in his first term, will be up for re-election that year. Nixon already has made two runs at the Senate — in 1988 against Jack Danforth and in 1998 against Kit Bond. Nixon was trounced both times.
Republicans fret that Nixon, who will be ending his second term in November 2016 and cannot seek a third, will try for the Senate again to avenge his political setbacks.
That’s the theory at least, and that’s what drove Perry and Scott to take the unusual moves they took, GOPers said. They wanted to soften the Nixon beachhead.
Problem is, such a race doesn’t appear to be in the offing. Well-placed political sources say Nixon has already told Blunt he won’t make that race. Nixon allies suggest as much too. Nixon’s plans, it seems, are unclear.
But that isn’t enough to soothe the fears of Republicans who rightly worry what the governor will do next. Those Republicans are eager to begin damaging the Democratic brand in a state where Attorney General Chris Koster stands as the early but prohibitive favorite to win the governorship in 2016.
If Koster wins and holds the office for two terms, Democrats will have held the governorship for 28 of the last 32 years. Republicans are weary.
The idea that Perry and Scott were simply trying to build support for an override of the tax cut remains far-fetched. Several leading Republicans acknowledge that Nixon’s exhaustive travels around the state have all but won that fight.