The big question on Thursday morning was why?
Why would Jason Kander, the 33-year-old Missouri secretary of state, bail out of a re-election race next year in which he was heavily favored to instead take on a sitting U.S. senator, Roy Blunt, who will be heavily favored to kick Kander’s backside all over the Show-Me State next year?
Why would Kander take such a risk?
Here’s one conclusion: Jason Kander is a man in a hurry.
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Here’s another: He caught lightning in a bottle once and he thinks he can do it again in 2016 to become one of the youngest U.S. senators in American history.
The 2016 election occurs in a presidential election year. Those are the years that present the best statewide voter turnouts. That tends to aid Democrats. And if Hillary Clinton is on the ballot, look for the possibility of a mega turnout from women eager to elect the first female president.
All that could lift Kander’s boat.
The timing of his announcement Thursday morning suggested a seriousness of purpose. The original early February announcement that Kander was considering the race said he’d decide this summer.
That he moved he up so dramatically suggests that he thinks he’s got a serious shot.
And if he doesn’t win? Democrats in Washington (maybe the second President Clinton?) will look kindly on the young man for taking such a risk and will reward him with a prize appointment.
Kander need look no farther than Gov. Jay Nixon, who’s done all right for himself politically despite two failed Senate races.
In a well-coordinated campaign rollout Thursday morning, Kander presented testimonials from the entire constellation of Democratic office-holders in Missouri.
Sen. Claire McCaskill said there’s “no stronger candidate in Missouri to take on Senator Blunt.” Attorney General Chris Koster emphasized Kander’s military background: “Every day Jason Kander uses the lessons he learned in the Army in Afghanistan to do what’s right for Missouri.”
Kander himself sounded positively Kennedy-esque in suggesting it’s time to pass the torch.
“We can’t change Washington if we don’t change the people we send there. I believe it’s time for a new generation of leaders who’ve come of age at a time of unprecedented challenges and threats to our country, and who are committed to bringing people together and doing what’s right no matter what the personal cost.”
In other words, Kander is saying his generation is ready to make the hard calls, politics be damned.
Come to think of it, Jack Kennedy didn’t wait his turn either in 1960. And neither did Kander in 2012 when, as a puppy-dog state rep from Kansas City, he launched his improbable bid for statewide office — and won through sheer hustle and aggressive fundraising, aided by a tangled and costly three-way GOP primary.
Kander became the youngest statewide office-holder in the nation.
Anyone who knows Jason and Diana Kander know that this is a formidable, hard-charging couple. Here’s guessing that Jefferson City is not their preferred long-term nesting site.
Audacious it is. Enormously challenging, too. It took Missouri Republicans mere minutes Thursday morning to begin tying Kander to the failed policies of President Barack Obama. The GOP will spare no expense in bolstering Blunt, an establishment Republican with deep ties to the Bushes who’s been plying his trade since the 1970s.
He is one of the most skilled pols I’ve ever covered — tenacious, strategic, smart, determined and inexhaustible with one of the best political minds in the state in his corner, his son, Andy Blunt.
Exhibit One: Blunt’s cleared the GOP field for his 2016 re-election bid in an era when conservative challengers have dogged incumbents all over the nation.
But Jason Kander is young enough not to let all the reasons why he shouldn’t bog him down. He did it before in 2012. In 2016? Well, stranger things have happened.