Archive for July 2008
The Missouri Republican Party is firing a shot across the bow … well … it’s firing a shot, so to speak, over the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling involving an individual’s right to bear arms.
The High Court’s ruling overturned a District of Columbia ban on individual ownership of guns and – in effect – guaranteed the rights of all Americans to own guns. Some Missouri Democrats were quick to issue press releases and e-mails expressing support for the decision. Those expressions of support came from Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Jay Nixon, State Representative and Lieutenant Governor candidate Sam Page, and former Kansas City Mayor and congressional candidate Kay Barnes.
But the Republicans say they want to hear from other Democrats – especially those running this year. A press release from Missouri GOP Communications Director Tina Hervey states, "Missouri Democrats are invited to submit a press release detailing their position on the rights of Americans to keep and bear arms."
It’s a "gotcha" challenge … with Hervey saying of those who have stated their views … and those who have said little: "This silence and unexpected support for the protection of Missourians’ 2nd Amendment rights is shocking because it appears as if Democrats have abandoned their desire for stricter gun laws."
The challenge is actually a contest, of sorts. Tina wants Democratic candidates to send submissions to email@example.com.
I must admit something similar had crossed my mind in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling – not the contest … but the desire of some and the reluctance of others to express views on the subject. I noticed that the three main Democratic candidates for Attorney General had not issued press releases … nor had they – to my knowledge – commented publicly on the ruling. So, I contacted Chris Koster, Jeff Harris, and Margaret Donnelly to find out where they stood.
The first of the candidates I asked was Senator Chris Koster. His response: "When the founders wrote the Bill of Rights they didn’t just throw the amendments up in the air and see where they landed. They put the right to bear arms second. The right to bear arms is fundamental. The Supreme Court recognized that right in the D.C, case and they made the correct decision. It benefits all Missourians and all Americans."
I next spoke to Representative Jeff Harris (back on July 2nd), who told me he had not had a chance to read or review the opinion, and had only read a brief summary. Harris’ response: "To me the Court’s ruling basically affirms what I think most people believed, which is that there is an individual right. That right is not unlimited."
I then heard from State Representative Margaret Donnelly who said, "I support the 2nd Amendment with certain common sense restrictions like background checks and waiting periods. And, I think that the Supreme Court decision has raised questions which I think will mean that we’ll have future decisions giving us guidance as to whether states do have the right to enact these common sense restrictions like the background checks and the waiting periods."
When contacting each of the AG candidates I suggested their silence on the issue (at that time) might have something to do with the fact the gun rights issue is a "toxic" one for Democrats who face the task of having to appeal to many conservative Democrats in rural Missouri – supporters of gun rights … and many liberal Democrats in places like St. Louis – opponents of gun rights. All three rejected that assertion. But let’s face it … few Republicans would have trouble shouting from the rooftops that the Supreme Court ruling was a victory … Such is not the case with Democrats – especially those in tight primary races.
– Steve Walsh
I was sitting at my desk earlier this week when Melissa Nitti from the Barack Obama campaign called to check on our coverage plans for Wednesday’s Obama tour of rural Missouri. Before I had a chance to relay everything we planned on receiving from our affiliates, Melissa offered up a one on one interview with the man who might be the next President of the United States. No … not Bob Barr … but Barack Obama.
My conversation with Melissa gave her the chance to tell me the Obama campaign is hoping to make strides in many places in rural Missouri (which we had already been told). What was interesting is Melissa was aware of Missourinet’s impact in these areas that are now being targeted by Democrats.
This was refreshing … not just because someone who is not from Missouri (Melissa is from Oregon originally but now lives in Southern California) has some knowledge of this state … but because – on a much larger scale – the Democratic Party at the national level has learned that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Kansas City Star are not the only media outlets in the Show-Me State.
I thought to myself … they get it. The Democrats are coming around to the realization they already own Missouri’s big cities … and that there are votes be mined in the rural areas … and most of the folks in those areas don’t get their news from the Post-Dispatch and the Star. This is a big difference from elections past, with the Obama candidacy taking aim at many of those votes often ignored by Democrats. Brilliant!
Fast forward to Wednesday and Obama’s I-44 trip from Springfield … through Rolla … and finally into Union for a barbecue. It was at this final event that I was to have my interview with Obama. The event was scheduled to get underway at 6 pm. At around 5:55 … the bus pulled up to where Obama emerged to wave at and shake hands with some of his supporters. He was joined by Senator Claire McCaskill and Secretary of State Robin Carnahan. Not that I want to make a big deal out of this … well, then again, of course I do … the bus was on time and the event could get underway on time!!! Some of the Democrats with whom I spoke at the event even joked that being organized was not their party’s strong point.
Anyone who remembers John Kerry and John Edwards’ campaign stop at the State Capitol in Jefferson City four years ago remembers waiting … and waiting … and waiting … and waiting. For that event and others it seemed as though Democrats were not inhibited by the need to be punctual. That ain’t happening with Obama.
Anyway … I did my interview (as did Jo Mannies of the Post-Dispatch who was given a one on one, as well) … with no delays. In fact, Melissa and other organizers asked if I was ready to go early because Obama was ready. Impressed? You bet!
The Dems are hungry and want to take back the White House. And, not only is the guy at the top of the ticket organized and on time … he’s determined to go into the belly of the beast – traditionally Republican strongholds – to push his message and to try to take as many GOP votes as he can. This by no means guarantees that in November Obama will carry Missouri … or even win the election. But it’s impressive to see Democrats realizing that Missouri extends beyond the western border of St. Louis County and the eastern border of Jackson County.
– Steve Walsh
There’s a lot of buzz, this week, over presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama’s choice as a running mate. And a good many Missourians – even those who might not be inclined to vote for Obama – have the cockles of their hearts warmed by the thought of the Show-Me State’s junior U.S. Senator – Claire McCaskill – being considered as a VP choice.
Okay … the talk of Our Claire being Obama’s choice for the number two spot is being eclipsed, somewhat, by talk of other Democrats in Washington and elsewhere whose names are being tossed around. If what’s coming out of the rumor mill is accurate … the choice could be from a short list that includes Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, and Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia.
Most Missourians might not be aware that if Our Claire is bypassed … we could still see a Missourian … or at least a former Missourian … as Obama’s running mate. The Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia (my favorite former state) was born in Minnesota … but moved to the Kansas City area at an early age and attended KC’s Rockhurst High School. He then moved onto the University of Missouri-Columbia, graduating in 1979 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics. He later attended Harvard Law School.
So … we might not get a current Missourian in the VP spot … but we could see a former Missourian as the choice … and those Missouri roots might be attractive to the Democrats as they try to put this "red" state into the "blue" column in November.
– Steve Walsh
The Missouri Capitol press corps is a little bit spoiled in that we are used to dealing with the well-oiled machines that are the Democratic and Republican Parties. Occasionally, somebody with one of these parties will drop the proverbial ball … but for the most part … these are well-trained pros who know what they’re doing.
Third parties are not as polished … but some, like the Libertarian Party, do a pretty good job of getting their candidates ready for election campaigns … and the staff members will work long hours to try to get as many votes as possible.
Enter the independent candidates. Ralph Nader announced in February that he would be seeking the White House again – as an independent candidate. Missouri law states that any independent candidate for President earns access to the November ballot by collecting 10,000 valid signatures from registered Missouri voters.
Bob Delaviras, the Missouri State Coordinator for the Nader-Gonzalez ’08 Campaign submitted more than 20,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office on Monday. Officials there will verify and authenticate the signatures in the coming weeks to determine whether the required number of valid signatures has been met. The Nader folks with know by August 19th.
What stood out to yours truly and a couple of other members of the Capitol press corps with whom I spoke is that the Nader effort does not appear to be all that organized. This is not to say that Delaviras and others don’t have their hearts in the right place … it’s just that their effort is a stark contrast to what we see from the Democrats and Republicans … parties with so much organization … and so much money.
I asked Delaviras about the Missouri organization … and learned the Nader effort in the Show-Me State doesn’t have a campaign office.
Nader has run for President a number of times in the past … picking up 38,515 Missouri votes in 2000 … but dropping to only 534 Missouri votes as a write-in candidate in 2004. Assuming Nader wins a spot on the ballot, there’s a good chance that with a lack of money to buy advertising time and to get out the word … Nader might not pick up much more in the way of votes than he did four years ago. But if the McCain-Obama race is as close in Missouri as some political observers think it might be … those 500 plus votes could be the difference this year … and wouldn’t that be some kind of statement for independent candidates?
– Steve Walsh
Missouri’s junior U.S. Senator is already making headlines as a national campaigner for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama … and there have been comments from the pundits that Claire McCaskill would bring a lot of positives to the ticket as Obama’s VP choice. And, while some of the Capitol Hill reporters and pundits like to think of themselves as all-knowing … it means a heck of a lot more when praise comes from someone who has actually been in the political trenches and played a big role in winning political wars.
Our Claire was a guest on this week’s edition of Fox News Sunday … and took advantage of the opportunity to praise Barack Obama on his trip abroad to such places as Iraq, Germany, and England. No secret that our junior Senator likes what she saw. After all, she was one of the early supporters of the Obama presidential bid … and that was back in the days when conventional wisdom was that the nomination was Hillary Clinton’s to lose.
Anyway … during the course of the interview Our Claire was asked about the possibility of her being Obama’s running mate … and suggested – with her usual candor – that anyone who says they would not be thrilled to serve as Vice President is not being completely straight.
Now … to the comments of one of the Washington pundits whose thoughts might actually matter. Karl Rove, who has earned the moniker "The Architect" because of the roles he has played in President George W. Bush’s political triumphs, is now a Fox News political contributor. Following McCaskill’s appearance on Fox News Sunday, Rove talked to FNS host Chris Wallace about running mates and how a Missourian like Claire McCaskill – from what is seen as a "red" state – could bring this state into the Obama column in November.
A lot of Republicans really love Karl Rove – primarily because he has been so successful in his political endeavors. Conversely, a lot of Democrats really hate Karl Rove – primarily because he has been so successful in his political endeavors. (Funny how that works). Likes and dislikes aside … there is no getting around the fact that Karl Rove is a winner whose thoughts on politics probably mean a little more than those written or voiced by most of the talking heads in the Nation’s Capital.
It’s anyone’s guess as to whether Our Claire will be asked to be Obama’s running mate. Conventional wisdom (there’s that old conventional wisdom thing again) says a freshman Senator would not choose another freshman Senator to fill the number two spot on the ticket. But, let’s face it, as political years go … this one has been very UNconventional.
– Steve Walsh
Well … it’s the weekend … and the time is perfect for a little bit of less than serious stuff on the old blog. So, let’s focus on American Idol – a show I have no desire to watch … but is one that is loved by so many Missourians. And, the victory by David Cook of Blue Springs – the reigning American Idol – adds something to this story.
The search for the next David Cook is getting underway. And, the search for the new Idol makes its way to Kansas City on August 8th … with Season 8 Auditions scheduled for Kemper Arena. Organizers are starting registration August 6th and expect to attract thousands of people to Kansas City to demonstrate their talent … or lack of same … for judges.
It’s thought that approximately 15,000 people will audition for … the chance at stardom … The chance to be … a TV icon … The opportunity to be … the Last Comic Standing! Oops … wrong show and wrong network. Make that … The American Idol!
To find out about auditioning and how to register go to the American Idol website at http://www.americanidol.com/.
– Steve Walsh
One of the first things I was asked as I returned to the metropolis of Jefferson from Wednesday’s Republican gubernatorial debate in Springfield is … "What do you think?" … which is code for "Who won?" I don’t know who won. I can say that both Sarah Steelman and Kenny Hulshof got in their points as they answered questions for the better part of an hour. But I really can’t say who came out on top.
That is not a problem for the campaigns which have been quick to proclaim victory in the wake of the debate. Former Missouri Republican Party Executive Director John Hancock – with the Hulshof campaign – was the first. He approached several reporters immediately following the debate to claim his guy had won. Spence Jackson with the Steelman campaign saw things differently, claiming it was a "knockout" for the State Treasurer over the U.S. Congressman from Missouri’s 9th Congressional District.
Adding to the confusion are the comments of the Missouri Democratic Party which read, in part, "Neither candidate could defend their record tonight and neither could lay out a single new idea." Well … we don’t really expect the Dems to say much good about the Republicans, do we? And, interestingly enough, the Republicans don’t usually have much good to say about Dems in their debates. Go figure.
Back to the Hulshof-Steelman tilt … I know John and Spence well enough to believe that each sincerely thinks his candidate was the winner of the debate. And that’s the way it should be. Would you really want to support a candidate whose campaign claims, "We really got clobbered tonight!" … or a campaign claiming the opponent really got the best of it? Of course not!
Members of both the Steelman and Hulshof campaigns believe they are backing the candidate who can best represent the party against Democrat Jay Nixon in November. And they’re working hard to secure victory. Not that I want to sound corny … but that really is one of the great things about our political system. And it’s a big part of what makes covering politics such a fun job.
– Steve Walsh