What comes next? That’s the question after Donald Trump overcame Hillary Clinton in the election to become the 45th president of the United States of America. In Missouri, Trump won with 57.1% of the votes. But that wasn’t the only history that was made last night.
As St. Louis Public Radio reporter Jason Rosenbaum said on Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air:
“I can say without any hyperbole that yesterday was the most triumphant day in the modern history of the Missouri Republican party and the worst day ever for the Missouri Democratic party, not just in modern history,” Rosenbaum said. “Missouri has traditionally been either a swing state or a Democratic state on a local level. In the 1800s, there weren’t even viable Republican challengers for U.S. Senate and governor.
“Now, we are in a situation where Republicans won seven statewide elections last night, which has never happened before. You have a Governor-elect, Eric Greitens, come into office with super majorities, meaning he will be able to do whatever he and the legislature want. I can’t emphasize how good it was for Missouri Republicans and how bad it was for the Democrats. It could be years, if not a decade before the Democrats turn it around.”
Republicans swept most statewide offices and will have solid control of Missouri state government in the coming years.
Voter photo identification, a bar on new sales taxes on services and limits on campaign contributions for state-based races are all part of the Missouri constitution now. Meanwhile, no new taxes were levied on cigarettes and the sales tax for state parks and conservation will continue for 10 years.
On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, we parsed through the election results in front of a live audience in the Community Room at UMSL at Grand Center, with Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio reporter Jo Mannies and UMSL political science professor Terry Jones. Below, find some of the most important takeaways from their discussion.
Why did the election turn the direction it did when polling did not predict it?
Pre-election polls were stunningly off in the prediction that Clinton would win over Trump in the general election. What happened? Jones referenced “shy-Trump” voters as the reason polls may have been so off, stating that if people who were polled as undecided or for a third party candidate may have been uncomfortable saying their vote was for Trump on the phone. That could have accounted for the 2-4 percent of the electorate that changed the vote.
In Missouri, there are some especially glaring issues with live polls. Rosenbaum pointed to examples where polls were done with a sample size of 400 people, which is too small of a sample in his opinion.
In reality, in Missouri, Trump helped Republicans in Missouri turn out a large number in exurban and suburban areas of the state. In Kansas City, the city of St. Louis and Kansas City (traditionally democratic areas), turnout was down by 50,000 votes. As Mannies pointed out, though, margins of victory for Republicans were so huge this turnout would have mattered little.
“We thought [Trump’s margin] would be anywhere from 10 to 15 points, well it got to almost 20 points,” Rosenbaum said. “I don’t care how talented you are as a politician or how good of a campaign you’ve run, if your presidential nominee loses that state by 20 percentage points, and your opponent hasn’t made a catastrophic Todd Akin-like mistake, you’re not going to win the election and that’s what happened to Missouri Democrats yesterday.”
What will we see change in Missouri relatively soon?
“One thing that undoubtedly will happen in the next few months after Greitens takes office is that Missouri will become a ‘Right to Work’ state,” Mannies said. “In the General Assembly, the Republican majority has been charged by supporters and donors to get this through. This will get through. This will be signed by Greitens. … There will be realignment. Some say this will lead to more jobs and critics say it will lead to lower paying jobs. This will happen. This is not a test. This will be a major change in Missouri in the next six months.”
How will this change Missouri politics?
On one hand, as Jones said, “with one party control, comes one party accountability.” With Republicans controlling the state, they will be held accountable for anything that goes wrong in the state. That means they will have to account for any missteps when time for reelection comes in 2020.
That doesn’t spell an easy road for Democrats, however.
“One of the reasons I said it may be a long time for Missouri Democrats to recover: All their statewide candidates that could have run for governor in 2020 lost yesterday,” Rosenbaum said. “The only statewide non-U.S. senator that remains is Nicole Galloway, the state auditor, who is a democrat who was appointed last year. She will face a tough republican challenger in 2018.”
Democrats don’t have much of a bench elsewhere in state office to aid Galloway in that fight.
“But to be fair, four years is an eternity in Missouri politics,” Rosenbaum said. “Four years ago, Jay Nixon won governor with a double digit margin.”
Jones said that Democrats could take heart in the fact that every party has people who look in the mirror and see themselves as the next Missouri governor.
“Eric Greitens certainly did that four years ago and we did not mention him until this year,” Jones said.
Claire McCaskill, the Democratic U.S. Senator from Missouri, is now “in the bullseye,” Mannies said. She will face a big Republican challenge in 2018 and her look at a possible future senate chairmanship is out of her grasp now that Republicans control the Senate.
The future is unclear for Missouri’s Democratic candidate for governor, Chris Koster.
“I can see a future of him joining a trial attorney firm and making lots and lots of money,” Rosenbaum said. “He is a very talented attorney and, frankly, a very talented political figure. In any other year, I think he would have won this race. A lot of things went against him.”
If Trump proves to be unpopular, Koster would also still be able to jump back into the political fray. Examples in Missouri politics like Mel Carnahan and Kit Bond jump to mind of politicians who were defeated once and later sought another route to power.
No matter what, Republicans proved themselves a formidable power in Missouri.
“This wasn’t a case of [Missouri Republicans] accidentally winning because of Trump, though he helped a lot,” Mannies said. “All of them down the line ran very sharp, focused campaigns and I don’t want to take away from those victories. Republicans were strong going in, even before Trump.”
Did FBI Director James Comey’s announcement have an impact on Missouri votes?
On Oct. 28, Comey sent a letter to Congress announcing he was investigating another batch of Clinton emails found on Anthony Weiner’s computer. While it is hard to say how much that impacted the result on election night, many Democrats are blaming Comey for Clinton’s loss. Did it impact any races in Missouri?
“The first Comey letter came out at the same time Jason Kander was having a rally in St. Louis with Joe Biden,” Rosenbaum said. “I felt something in that rally, that was the pinnacle of Kander’s campaign and he had a lot of nationwide exposure. When that letter hit, I felt like this could be a momentum-stopper for Clinton and other Democrats at well.”
Ultimately, Senate races across the nation, including Kander/Blunt in Missouri, were impacted, said Mannies. In races below that, however? Not so much. On a statewide level, such as with Greitens and Koster, the impact would have been little.
What will U.S. Senator Roy Blunt do now?
“I’m sure he will reach out to Trump,” Mannies said. “He is extremely grateful. His race was the one that was helped the most by Trump.”
While Trump won over Clinton by 20 percentage points, Blunt won over Democrat Jason Kander by only three percentage points. The huge turnout for Trump likely spelled the difference in this Missouri Senate race.
Mannies anticipates that Blunt may try to become a part of the Senate leadership and he may even be chosen to work with Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who will likely be put in charge of domestic issues.
It will be interesting to see how Blunt and McCaskill, who have had a positive working relationship in the past, will continue now that McCaskill will be running for reelection in 2018. She was active in her support of Kander and Blunt may now actively try to find an opponent to run against her.
Is there a future for a cigarette tax in Missouri?
Both Amendment 3 and Proposition A, Missouri’s two cigarette tax increase proposals, failed on election day, exhibiting the uphill climb such measures have in a state that is made up of 25% smokers and 15% people who opposed any kind of tax hike, no matter what.
“That’s 40 percent against [cigarette taxes] right out of the gate,” Jones said. “That’s a fairly small margin of error. If there is any opposition to how the tax money would be spent or the way it is written, that is enough to sink you.”
St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.