Lots of people struggle with recurring nightmares. Missouri Republicans are talking about their latest — the prospect of yet another high-profile, highly damaging, intraparty fight for their 2016 gubernatorial nomination.
Two Republicans announced this week that they are running. If both stick it out, the contentious politicking that will ensue will virtually ensure that the office remains in Democratic hands.
On Monday, Catherine Hanaway, the state’s first woman House speaker, jumped in, saying Missouri remains “stuck in neutral, if not rolling backwards.”
On Tuesday, it was state auditor Tom Schweich’s turn. He performed a nimble pirouette by simultaneously unveiling his team for his re-election campaign this year and having his allies hint, none too subtly, that the same group will help make him the state’s next governor.
Schweich’s mentor, former senator Jack Danforth, described the auditor as the party’s “obvious choice” for the state’s highest office.
Both are worthy. Both hail from the party’s establishment wing.
In the aftermath of those announcements, reps from both camps swore and signed blood oaths that their side was in the race for good. In fact, Schweich backers started labeling their guy as more conservative than Hanaway to begin currying favor with far-right voters who make up the bulk of primary electorates.
What’s breathtaking about all this is the recurring notion — call it a Republican nightmare — that the Missouri GOP has been here before.
Famously in 2012, it was a three-way GOP primary for U.S. Senate, ultimately won by Todd Akin, that gave underdog Democrat Claire McCaskill six more years.
The contentious 2008 primary between Sarah Steelman and Kenny Hulshof resulted in a red-carpet rollout for Democrat Jay Nixon all the way to the Governor’s Mansion.
The granddaddy of all GOP primaries, and it may have sparked the trend, was the 1992 bloodbath between Republicans Roy Blunt, Bill Webster and Wendell Bailey. The result? Two terms of Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan and the start of a trend. Democrats have now controlled the state’s highest office for 17 of the past 21 years.
Amazing, considering that Missouri is a red-blooded Republican state.
In the modern era, primaries kill. They drain away too much money that should be aimed at the opponent. So for the GOP, this week was a train wreck.
It was Freddy Krueger dancing in their dreams.