Keep Missouri’s Senate Race in the ‘Maybe’ Column

It’s that time of year again when we all start speculating about which Senate seats are up for grabs. So far, things aren’t looking good for Democrats. While Ohio, Montana, West Virginia, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and even Maryland could turn red, the list of possible Democratic pick-ups is small. I hear whispers that Ted Cruz or Rick Scott could lose their seats, but that’s usually where the whispers end. Fortunately, I believe there is one more possible blue turn that we crossed off the lists: Missouri.

First, incumbent Republican Josh Hawley is a pathetic excuse for a senator. This is well established. He is a fraudster; he voted against upholding the results of the 2020 election and then ran from the Capitol mob he helped incite. He portrays himself as pro-labor, despite a terrible AFL-CIO rating. He claims he wants to end Citizens United to stop corporate influence in politics, even though he himself has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Peter Thiel. He has a net unfavorable rating, even in a state Trump won by a 15-point margin.

But Josh Hawley’s fundamentals aren’t enough to make his campaign fail: If politicians lost their shirts for being bad at their jobs, we’d live in a very different (and better) world. Candidates lose because someone stands up to them better. In this case, Hawley’s likely challenger, Lucas Kunce, is in a unique position to take on him. Kunce is very good. In fact, he almost seems like a candidate perfect for making Hawley look pathetic. Kunce is a formidable fundraiser, while Hawley has in the past leveraged his fundraising numbers to make himself look less of a loser. Hawley has made “masculinity” a central part of his identity, even though he was caught on tape running from the January 6 gang; Lucas Kunce is a former Marine. I’m not a big fan of traditional views of ‘masculinity’, but the facts speak for themselves. Kunce is not running a campaign aimed at tying himself to Joe Biden, a man unpopular in the state of Missouri; he is running a campaign that focuses on the issues that voters care about, such as working conditions and bodily autonomy. Like Hawley, Kunce is young and photogenic, which negates one of Hawley’s best qualities: the fact that he is the rare male senator who still has a full head of hair.

At this point the political junkies might be thinking: this sounds like one lot such as the 2022 Ohio Senate race. Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan ran an impressive campaign and far outperformed Democrats statewide, but he still lost to Republican J.D. Vance by about seven points. Red states vote red, you might think, so why should I pin my hopes on Missouri? But I would say that some fundamental things will be different in 2024. Reproductive freedom will be on the agenda in Missouri, which has seen motivating liberals in red states. Missouri voters are so passionate about protecting reproductive freedoms that at least one measure has been passed twice the signatures needed to get on the ballot this fall. And Hawley could lose some of his support: AIPAC endorsed him in 2022, but they have cut off their funding to several Republican candidates who voted against Israeli aid (which Hawley did); this suggests that Hawley may not get their support this time. And people are moving into the country’s Republican suburbs faster than leaving them, meaning historical voting patterns in 2024 are even less indicative than in the past.

There’s another man Hawley should be concerned about: the same man who has been at the helm of the Republican Party for the past decade. In 2022, Vance won Ohio with a huge amount of help from Trump himself. Even if Trump does like Hawley (I find it hard to believe that all these people have anything other than total contempt for each other), and even gives Hawley a pat on the back via Truth Social, Trump has his own campaign to worry about. It’s unrealistic to expect him to be in Missouri looking for Hawley; he has very few days out of court. In fact, all of the Republican Senate candidates may be a little more screwed than they will be in 2022. After all, Trump has done some financial jiu jitsu to use Republican donor money to pay his legal bills, and he is effectively in full control of the RNC. . That’s money that could have gone into the vote if he hadn’t committed so many crimes. Do I think Trump will cause his party to lose fifteen Senate seats nationwide and that we will finally be free from the tyranny of the filibuster? No, I’m not much of an optimist. But I’m hopeful about Missouri. When you put it all together — the Republican incumbent is a loser, his Democratic challenger is strong, abortion is on the ballot, the demographics are changing, Trump is a leech — there is enough reasonable doubt about Josh Hawley to put Missouri in the ‘maybe ‘ column. .

November is still far away. Polls show him as one of the most polarizing elected officials in Missouri, meaning voters already have a clear idea of ​​who Josh Hawley is. The primaries haven’t even taken place yet and Lucas Kunce still has months to present himself to voters. I’m not saying it will be easy, but I’m not willing to give up on Missouri.

Ginny Hogan lives in Baltimore, but closely follows politics in Missouri, where her family is from.