Missouri’s U.S. Senate race is growing more competitive, according to the latest ratings from the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
The center now rates Missouri’s U.S. Senate race this year between incumbent Republican Roy Blunt and Democrat Jason Kander as “lean Republican.”
That’s a move toward the more competitive side from “likely Republican” where the center previously rated the race.
The shift is due to the likelihood that either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz will be the GOP presidential nominee.
Never miss a local story.
Here’s the center’s analysis, which was released Thursday:
Sen. Roy Blunt (R) is still a favorite to win reelection.
But it’s possible that his Democratic opponent, Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, could spring an upset if Trump (or perhaps Cruz) is leading the GOP ticket in November.
While Missouri is more likely than not to go Republican at the presidential level — Barack Obama won by seven points nationally in 2008 but still lost the Show Me State by 0.1 percentage points — the closer the presidential contest, the fewer split ticket voters Kander has to find. And Missourians have shown some tendency to turn in mixed ballots: In 2012 Mitt Romney won by nine points, but Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) defeated controversial Rep. Todd Akin (R) by nearly 16 points.
In that same election cycle, incumbent Gov. Jay Nixon (D) won reelection by 12 points, and Kander won an open-seat contest for his current office by 1.5 points.
So it’s certainly not inconceivable that Kander, considered a great recruit for Democrats, could surprise Blunt. Still, the incumbent Republican is a prodigious fundraiser who had $5 million in his war chest at the end of 2015 compared to Kander’s $2 million. So while Kander’s climb may not be as steep if the Republican presidential standard bearer struggles, beating Blunt will be no easy feat.
We are shifting this contest from Likely Republican to Leans Republican.