This week, Missouri Democrats failed for the first election year since 1878 to field a candidate for a statewide office.
So says the state GOP, which apparently has a fact checker or two working overtime these days.
At the Tuesday filing deadline, Democrats left a big blank next to “state auditor.” That means Republican incumbent Tom Schweich only has to knock off a Libertarian and a Constitution Party candidate to win.
Here’s betting he can meet that challenge.
But don’t feel too badly for the Democrats, who aren’t exactly crying in their soup over their shortcoming. In fact, this may have been the outcome that the party’s leading 2016 gubernatorial candidate, Chris Koster, wanted all along.
Schweich has turned somersaults in recent weeks to hint, hint and hint again that after his re-election he plans to juice up his campaign machine for the governor’s race.
It’s no secret in the Capitol that Koster prefers to run against Schweich for the state’s top job over another GOPer — former House speaker Catherine Hanaway.
But Hanaway is a woman. In what may be an historic year for women in 2016 with Hillary Clinton’s expected White House run, that’s worth a lot. Hanaway is also tough and tested. She has the grudging respect of Democrats.
Koster doesn’t want to face a qualified woman. Not in 2016.
Democrats also whisper that they think Schweich lacks a certain gravitas. His herky-jerky demeanor, quick twitches and slight build remind a lot of folks of Barney Fife. Koster would be the Andy Griffith in that showdown.
No question, Democrats tried to find a candidate to take on Schweich. But there’s some question about exactly how hard they tried.
Some suggest the Democrats didn’t exactly promise much help to those candidates, which brings us back to the original premise here. Koster and his fellow Democrats may have subtly arranged a blank ballot line against Schweich to boost the auditor’s prospects and his confidence too.
Sometime this year, the push will be on to move somebody out of the governor’s race to avoid a primary. Schweich can now say he’s so formidable that the Democrats didn’t even file against him.
Missouri Democrats are developing a skill for pulling invisible strings in GOP primaries. Remember Sen. Claire McCaskill’s 2012 TV ads describing the GOP’s Todd Akin as the field’s most conservative candidate?
That was the opponent she wanted, and she got him.
Democrats may be doing it again.