Now I know how Michael Jordan felt all those years. Every game, people came to see the greatest basketball player who ever lived.
And here I am, about to unload another round of predictions for another presidential election year, placing a blemish-free record squarely on the line one more time.
That’s real pressure.
After all, not once in more than two decades of forecasting has The Great Kraskini faltered. The political world awaits, and I never disappoint.
This is for shucks and grins, and before 2015 is too far in the rear-view mirror, I’ll toss in my picks for the Mo-Kan Pols of the Year.
Happy new year, by the way. And away we go:
▪ The GOP presidential nominee will be ...Ted Cruz. The history of recent presidential nomination fights suggests that voters buckle down and get serious as ballot-time nears.
Donald Trump’s hot-air balloon will spring a leak in the weeks ahead.
Guided by KC political consultant Jeff Roe, Cruz has astutely positioned himself as the conservative-in-waiting should Trump fade.
Yes, he’s seriously disliked by his Senate colleagues. But in a year where “establishment” is a nasty word, that dislike is a badge of honor.
That, and the primary schedule sets up nicely for the Texas senator. A win in Iowa buys him a ticket through the early contests. He’ll do well in South Carolina, then he’ll score big in the March 1 “Super Tuesday” states when Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas go to the polls.
By the end of the first week of March, he’s a runaway freight train.
▪ A Cruz nomination hands the presidency to Hillary Clinton — in a big way, too.
The 2016 race will quickly come to resemble the 1964 LBJ landslide over Barry Goldwater. And don’t think for a minute that some top Republicans aren’t already in a sweaty lather over all this.
▪ The 2016 GOP nomination for Missouri governor goes to ... Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder. After 12 years as the state’s second banana, Kinder’s name recognition allows him to squeak past three other competitive, and better-funded, Republicans — Catherine Hanaway, John Brunner and Eric Greitens. The primary will come to resemble the brutal intra-party Republican battle of 1992 with Bill Webster, Roy Blunt and Wendell Bailey.
▪ Buoyed by the Clinton landslide and the GOP infighting, Democrat Chris Koster skates past Kinder in November, continuing the Democratic Party’s stranglehold on the governor’s office in a state that continues to tilt Republican. If Koster holds the office for two terms, Democrats will have held it for 28 years of the past 32.
▪ In Missouri’s U.S. Senate race, Republican Roy Blunt bucks the Democratic wave, barely getting past a stronger-than-expected Jason Kander. The Democrat is poised for another Senate run in 2018, only to find his path blocked as incumbent Claire McCaskill announces she’ll seek a third term that year now that another Clinton is ensconced in the White House.
And now, our pols of the year:
In Kansas, it’s Sen. Jerry Moran who, as the new year dawns, finds himself unchallenged for re-election in 2016. No tea partiers have stepped up, and neither has a Democrat.
This may not rank as an incredible feat in Kansas. Still, it’s notable and a sign that Moran has taken care of business. His standing is a far cry from where his Republican sidekick, Sen. Pat Roberts, found himself at the same point two years ago.
And if conservative Milton Wolf decides early in this new year to take a run at Moran, the senator will have several million on hand to defend himself.
The picking was tougher in Missouri.
Give a runner-up trophy to new House Speaker Todd Richardson, who’s already had considerable impact since he took over for the disgraced John Diehl. He pushed through new sexual harassment rules in the House. The rub comes this session and whether he can clean up the joint with some new ethics and campaign-finance rules.
Richardson shows uncommon promise.
A tip of the hat, too, to Koster for catapulting from party-switcher to gubernatorial frontrunner; to Gov. Jay Nixon for stabilizing a shaky ship post-Ferguson, and to Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, who became the first person in Missouri history to be elected both Senate president pro tem and House speaker. That’s somethin’.
The winner? Kander, who used 2015 to transform himself from long-shot Senate candidate to serious challenger. The National Journal this week called him “the trendy upset pick of 2016.”
That sounds about right.