Maybe it was the drizzle. Or the fact that it was a Monday. Or that the primary election for Missouri governor is still three months off.
Or maybe it was a combination of all three that resulted in precisely nobody showing up for a Young Republicans event at McCoy’s Public House in Westport where Missouri gubernatorial candidate John Brunner was making an appearance.
Not one single voter had the least interest in meeting Brunner, a St. Louis businessman who might well be a U.S. senator today had it not been for that aberration of history that was the Todd Akin candidacy of 2012.
Not a single person showed up to ask Brunner about jobs or roads or schools or that same-sex marriage amendment that’s clogging up all the airspace in the Capitol these days.
Brunner blamed it on a late add to the schedule, but that wasn’t it either. Word had gone out several days earlier because yours truly had it on his calendar.
But Brunner’s giant goose egg tells us something important about the burgeoning 2016 race for Missouri governor: Hardly anybody gives two hoots about it these days.
Not in a year when Donald Trump and Ted Cruz dominate the airwaves. Not in a year when Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders continue to battle it out for the highest office in the land.
The race to become the 56th governor of Missouri? Never mind.
“All the air’s been sucked out by the presidential campaigns,” Brunner told me between sound bites about how he’s an outsider this year, just like Trump.
Now some experts will tell you all that will change when the millions of dollars that these candidates have been raising get exchanged for their intended purpose, which is those 30-second TV ads. Those spots will introduce these contenders to the state and later attempt to portray rival candidates as the personification of evil.
But what if June turns into July and Trump still lacks the 1,237 delegates he needs to put the GOP presidential nomination away? The media, both in Missouri and nationally, will continue to be absorbed by the Trump-Cruz-John Kasich saga, making it tougher for Brunner and rivals Eric Greitens, Catherine Hanaway and Peter Kinder to attract attention.
“There’s no question the presidential election has had a swallowing effect on everything beneath it,” said John Hancock, chairman of the Missouri Republican Party.
So what’s a candidate to do? Run lots of 30-second ads now when no one’s paying attention? Or wait until July and saturate the airways just as the GOP presidential race reaches its crescendo and blocks out the sun?
It’s a no-win situation, but it all might play to the advantage of one candidate in particular. That’s Kinder, the three-term lieutenant governor who has been a player in the Capitol since the early 1990s. Unlike the other candidates, a lot of Missourians already know Kinder, and he could become the default candidate of choice in the Aug. 2 primary.
“It helps that he’s well known,” a Kinder aide told me.
He just happens to be the candidate Democrat Chris Koster is said to most want to face in November.
But for the record, Kinder probably wouldn’t have drawn much of a crowd at McCoy’s either.