Editorials

President Trump endorses Gov. Mike Parson a year early. Do voters in Missouri care?

Gov. Mike Parson kicks off 2020 bid for governor

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson kicked off his campaign for a full four-year term in his hometown of Bolivar Sunday. He tied his election to the need to combat the “rise in socialism on the left.”
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Missouri Gov. Mike Parson kicked off his campaign for a full four-year term in his hometown of Bolivar Sunday. He tied his election to the need to combat the “rise in socialism on the left.”

President Donald Trump’s tweeted endorsement of Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is a head-scratcher.

No one doubted that Trump would back the Republican nominee eventually, but why now? The general election is more than a year away. Surely the president has more important things to do — inviting terror groups to America, forecasting the weather, playing golf — than weighing in on Missouri’s race for governor.

Part of the explanation may lie in the fractured nature of the Missouri GOP. One Republican, state Rep. Jim Neely of Cameron, has already announced plans to challenge Parson. Other possible conservative candidates may be sniffing around the Republican primary, angered by Parson’s fondness for housing tax credits, a higher gas tax and state spending.

“There are lots of people like me that don’t really feel like (Parson) is their brand of conservatism,” former Jackson County GOP chairman Mark Anthony Jones said Wednesday. Trump’s endorsement is likely aimed at convincing those conservative Republicans to stay out of the race next year.

Trump’s Tuesday tweet declaring that Parson is “very Popular (sic), Strong, and knows what he is doing” may also help the governor raise money. He had about $1.1 million on hand at the end of June, which is good for an incumbent governor but not great. Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens — whose committee is still active, by the way — has $700,000 in the bank.

So Parson’s explicit enthusiasm for the Trump endorsement is understandable. It isn’t clear, though, how much good it will do.

Trump won Missouri in 2016 by almost 19 points. In August, his favorable-unfavorable margin in the state was just five points, according to a poll from Morning Consult. The president’s coattails appear to have shortened considerably.

Why would Missourians sour on Trump? Perhaps farm-killing, job-killing tariffs have something to do with it. Maybe the president’s social media babbling has disgusted some voters. Other Missourians may be worried about a wobbling economy.

None of this appears to concern Mike Parson. “It’s an honor to have the support from President @realDonaldTrump,” the governor tweeted Tuesday. “Such an important election in November 2020, our country and state is (sic) headed in the right direction!”

Missourians who have lost friends and neighbors to gun violence — or who know someone inexplicably kicked off Medicaid — may have a different view. Car dealers and yacht owners probably think the state is doing OK.

Yes, Trump’s endorsement of Parson will make a difference for a small subset of Republicans still enthralled by the president’s behavior and approach.

For the rest of Missouri, though, we urge caution and perspective: Mike Parson should be judged on his own performance, not a White House love letter, issued by tweet.

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