The Buzz

The Buzz’s Missouri 2016 gubernatorial power rankings, 2.0

Missouri GOP candidates debate
Missouri GOP candidates debate

It’s time for another clear-eyed assessment of where the intensely competitive 2016 race for Missouri governor stands.

It’s just less than a year before the November 2016 general election and eight months before the August primary.

This is the race to succeed Jay Nixon who bows out after two terms in office, due to term limits.

Let’s rack ‘em:

1) Chris Koster. Still the race’s frontrunner, and that’s unchanged from our Labor Day assessment. Koster is unchallenged for the Democratic nomination — a huge plus as the GOP is embroiled in an already contentious four-candidate scrum. Koster’s got a cool $5 million on hand ready to be spent against whoever emerges. He continues to face questions about his political contribution policy, and he’ll be the GOP punching bag throughout 2016. Still, he’s the guy to beat.

2) Peter Kinder. The three-term Republican lieutenant governor remains the GOPer with the best name ID. He’s performed well in early GOP debates and often comes off as the adult in the room. His weak spot: fundraising. He pulled in $267,000 in the year’s third quarter, and that’s not where a three-term statewide office-holder should be. He’s not closing the deal. For comparison’s sake, Jay Nixon, then a four-term attorney general, raised more than $600,000 in the third quarter of 2007, a year before his election. That was eight years ago.

3) Eric Greitens, Republican. He’s moved up a spot since September. A former Navy SEAL, Greitens continues to be the guy who makes every other candidate nervous. He ginned up $1.4 million in the third quarter, just a tick off Koster’s $1.5 million. A newcomer to politics, he’s still getting his bearings on the debate stage and needs to be clearer about how his outsider status will translate to new ways of governing. His tit-for-tat verbal smackdown in a surreptitiously recorded phone call where he called rival John Brunner a “weasel” wasn’t exactly the rhetoric of a new-age candidate. (But see Brunner below).

4) Catherine Hanaway, Republican. She’s dropped a notch, but her status as the race’s lone woman helps. Her problem: She’s not distinguishing herself. That’s an easy complaint to lodge, a tough thing to fix. Her fundraising is below-average, save from mega donations from GOP money man Rex Sinquefield. Her constant catering to conservatives comes off as over-the-top. Still, she’s got Sinquefield.

5) Brunner. He’s dropped for many of the same reasons dogging Hanaway. He’s not standing out, and his fundraising only barely tops Kinder’s. Still, he’s got big personal money to toss around. And his inexperience in government shows with half-baked proposals for how to bail out MoDOT. His big problem: His campaign’s decision to release that phone call with Greitens, who didn’t know he was being recorded. It was a sleazy move, a below-the-belt punch that could wind up costing Brunner dearly. It should.