The Beltway Burden

Republican Kenny Hulshof is a leading candidate for governor of Missouri because he's a six-term congressman. Hulshof also might lose because he's a six-term congressman. ...
by | March 31, 2008

Kennyhulshof1 Republican Kenny Hulshof is a leading candidate for governor of Missouri because he's a six-term congressman. Hulshof also might lose because he's a six-term congressman.

Even when Congress is unpopular (and when isn't it?), usually congressmen make good candidates for governor. You know the cliché: People hate Congress, but love their own congressman.

In 2006, however, there were signs that serving in Congress was actually a liability, especially for Republicans. G.O.P. House members lost gubernatorial elections in Iowa, Colorado, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Nebraska (in a primary), with successes only in Idaho and Nevada.  A former Republican congressman was walloped in Arkansas.

Of course, 2006 was a bad year for all Republicans. But these were some of the most disastrous campaigns of the cycle. Bob Beauprez and Jim Nussle, in Colorado and Iowa respectively, took toss-up races and turned them into double-digit defeats.

I still can't get over the results in Oklahoma, where Ernest Istook, a previously popular seven-term congressman, only won a third of the vote. The message seemed to be that, in the midst of the Jack Abramoff and Mark Foley scandals, the last person voters wanted in charge of state government was a Republican congressman.

The question is whether anything has changed since 2006. Republican Bobby Jindal had no trouble making the move from congressman to Louisiana governor last year. While Republicans in Washington are still sorting out their corruption issues (see Rick Renzi), the issue has faded to some extent. But Congress as an institution remains highly unpopular and the Republican brand remains weakened.

So, expect to see more attacks on Hulshof like this one from Dick Morris, a supporter of State Treasurer Sarah Steelman in the Republican primary. From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch :

Morris said that he thought Hulshof - who got his own dig in earlier in the day - is too ingrained in the Beltway establishment.

Missouri voters, Morris offered, "don't like to import Washington dirt into Jefferson City. So, very rarely does somebody move from Washington into state politics."

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
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