Alan Greenblatt is a GOVERNING correspondent.E-mail: email@example.com
The one governor's mansion that has been certain to switch party control this year just switched. Democratic Attorney General Jay Nixon has beaten Congressman Kenny Hulshof in Missouri.
Nixon, a Democrat, succeeds GOP Gov. Matt Blunt. That boilerplate sentence pretty much tells the whole story. Reflecting the dynamic of voting in the nation as a whole, Missouri has had an unpopular incumbent chief executive who is not on the ballot but who doomed his party's chances nonetheless.
Blunt had been unpopular due to massive Medicaid cuts and changes to the state's student loan system. Unusually high unemployment also worked against the incumbent party.
Hulshof eked out a win against state Treasurer Sarah Steelman in the primary, but had to work hard to shore up support afterwards in the most Republican parts of the state, such as Greene County. He was handicapped in this effort first by Steelman's pounding and then by Nixon's fundraising advantage.
At last count, Nixon had raised $16 million, compared to $8.3 million for Hulshof. He also enjoyed a polling lead that only seemed to widen as the year went along.
Nixon, a four-term attorney general who had previously been unsuccessful in his attempts at higher office, carefully positioned himself as a moderate Democrat, opposing the death penalty and scoring points for his AG initiatives, such as a do-not-call list. Health care expansion was his centerpiece promise.
Hulshof charged that Nixon's spending promises amounted to more than the state could afford, but the congressman's own history as an earmark supporter dogged him after the top of his ticket, John McCain, made that a central argument.
Hulshof rhetorically borrowed McCain's symbolic mascot, Joe the Plumber, during his final debate with Nixon, but his populist argument against Nixon's platform fell largely on deaf ears.
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