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What does Claire McCaskill’s decision on Harry Reid suggest about her future?

McCaskill
McCaskill AP

ANALYSIS

It’s always dangerous to read too much into any politician’s motivation for doing what they do.

That said, political insiders in Missouri are already reading Sen. Claire McCaskill’s decision Thursday morning to oppose Harry Reid for another term as Senate Democratic leader as yet another sign that she’s considering a run for governor in 2016.

To be sure, all kinds of Democrats — and Americans of all political persuasions — believe that replacing Reid makes sense. He and GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell have locked horns more often than the Chiefs and Raiders. Neither is seen as capable of forging the type of consensus decision-making needed at a time when the country faces so many big issues.

Greg Orman, the independent Senate candidate in Kansas, made replacing Reid and McConnell a centerpiece of his campaign, and a lot of people agreed with him.

In a statement this morning, McCaskill said this:

“Yesterday I met with Harry Reid and told him I would not be supporting him for minority leader. I heard the voters of Missouri loud and clear. They want change in Washington. Common sense tells me that begins with changes in leadership.”

So this may be simple: McCaskill may just want a change in leadership because one is so badly needed.

But that said, she now faces a stark reality. With Reid destined to be re-elected, despite the Missourian’s opposition, her quality of life in D.C. is about to take a big hit.

Not only is she esconsed in the minority, Reid may well make McCaskill’s life miserable for her disloyalty. Her committee assignments may well be reconfigured against her will. Any favors the Democratic leader might bestow almost certainly won’t go to the woman who wanted that leader replaced.

So McCaskill’s motivation to remain in Washington won’t be nearly as great. A run for governor will certainly look even more appealing.

Even prior to her vote Thursday, McCaskill has dropped plenty of hints that she’s at least considering the race. Those hints include nearly $500,000 in donations she made to Missouri Democrats this year for legislative races.

And we’ve noted before that one of her long-standing ambitions is to become the state’s first woman governor.

Attorney General Chris Koster, the early front-runner for the Democratic nomination, has seen his stock downgraded in the wake of a recent New York Times story that said campaign contributions had influenced his decision-making.

Missouri Republicans are looking at the real possibility of nominating a woman, Catherine Hanaway, to be their 2016 gubernatorial nominee. McCaskill might match up better in that regard.

Just maybe the vote on Reid is another sign that a McCaskill-Hanaway faceoff is in the offing in the same year that Hillary Clinton seeks to become the nation’s first woman president.

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