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What’s ahead for Gov. Jay Nixon?

07/01/2014 9:51 AM

07/01/2014 9:51 AM

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon stops in town Tuesday to sign the border war bill.

He just wrapped up the sixth of the eight legislative sessions in his tenure as governor, which means he can now see the end of what’s been — by any measure — an impressive run of statewide electoral success.

Two easy wins for governor. Four for attorney general. And he was a state senator to boot.

For a Democrat in swing-state Missouri where the General Assembly is dominated by Republicans, that’s a run that’ll make the history books.

But here’s the deal: Nixon is just 58. He’s still a spring chicken in political terms, despite all those years at the top echelons of state government.

Here’s an analogy for you: Nixon is the Teddy Roosevelt of Missouri — vigorous, a champion of the outdoors, constantly touring all corners of the state more than any chief executive in state history.

Republicans and Democrats agree that he loves the job. He often says as much. Casual observers would conclude the same as they watch Nixon bound into a news conference and later race out the door for the next appearance.

But the state Constitution prevents him from running for a third term.

So you can’t help but wonder: What’s next?

The crystal ball remains decidedly cloudy on that score.

Let’s run down some possibilities:

Another run for the U.S. Senate: Nixon has two under his belt, and they were the rare blemishes on his electoral record. He was crushed in both races — first at the hands of Jack Danforth, the second to Kit Bond.

So you know he has an abiding interest in the Senate.

But all signs from Democrats close to Nixon indicate he won’t go there again, at least not in 2016 when Republican Roy Blunt is expected to seek re-election. If if he did run against Blunt, success wouldn’t be a given. That would be a monster of a race, just a notch below the storied 2000 Senate race between John Ashcroft and Mel Carnahan.

A presidential candidacy: This would only happen if Hillary Clinton is a no-go. And that looks increasingly unlikely.

A cabinet post in a Clinton administration: Maybe. Nixon would bring some heft to a new administration, a conservative Democrat from a swing state who would offer ideological balance. Attorney general might be a natural fit, but that prestigious post might be a reach for the governor, who has displeased many Democrats around the country with his tepid support of national Democratic initiatives, especially in his first term.

A return to private law practice. A likely prospect. He would bring gravitas to any firm, and there could a bidding war for his services.

The presidency of the University of Missouri system: Now we’re talking. The perfect option. A prestigious post that wouldn’t require another political campaign.

But first the job has to open.

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