Carnahan At A Crossroads

As U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan continues to be questioned about his political future, the political landscape is littered with pitfalls.

No matter the forum or topic at hand, U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan’s political future seems to follow him around.

Whether it’s a conference call about the , an , or a town , this summer, Carnahan continuously has been peppered with questions about his electoral future.

The questions keep coming because Carnahan, D-St. Louis, was . His congressional turf was chopped up and distributed to other federal lawmakers, leaving Carnahan with relatively limited options. Those include:

  • Running in Democratic U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay’s 1st Congressional District, where his current residence would be located in the new congressional map.
  • Running in the soon-to-be vacant 2nd Congressional District, which is being vacated as U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Wildwood, .
  • Running for a statewide office, such as lieutenant governor.

Carnahan basically took the third option off the table when he told various media outlets that he Beyond that though, Carnahan has remained relatively coy about his intentions. He’s also alluded to a lawsuit that would challenge the map that passed earlier this year, an option discussed by a couple of Democrats after Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto was overridden in May.

Recently though, Politico reporter (and former southwest Missouri newsman) Dave Catanese reported on polling showing Carnahan competitive in the 2nd Congressional District against potential Republican challengers Ed Martin and Ann Wagner. The poll came from 402 people surveyed by Lake Research Partners, a firm that typically does work for Democratic clients.

Catanese speculated that the poll “indicates that Carnahan, whose seat was eliminated in redistricting, is seriously weighing running in the newly drawn Republican-leaning district currently held by Rep. Todd Akin.” That’s certainly not an unreasonable assumption, since

But another political scribe—Arch City Chronicle and MoScout founder Dave Drebes—sees things a bit differently. He noted that the poll only gave Carnahan a marginal lead after a surveyer asked respondents about negative messages against Martin and Wagner. Drebes also added—with not one, but two question marks for emphasis—that the poll foretold a not-so-rosy environment for Carnahan.

“According the poll, 59 percent consider Carnahan a fair or poor congressman and the Tea Party is viewed more favorably President Barack Obama,” Drebes wrote. “Russ Carnahan is going to win this district??”

Carnahan is preparing himself monetarily to fight for his political life. And the bottom line is Carnahan will face a tough battle no matter what he decides to do.

Not only does the reconfigured 1st District possess a minority-majority population, its African-American incumbent—Clay—has been running and winning in St. Louis-area elections since the Reagan administration. As Clay pointed out earlier this year, he managed to crush then-County Councilman Charlie Dooley in a heated 2000 campaign, even though the future St. Louis County Executive had significant monetary backing. In other words, Clay is not necessarily going to be a pushover if Carnahan decides to run against him.

But if Carnahan does decide to run in the 2nd District, he could have a couple of things going his way. The first is that the district contains more traditional Democratic turf, including parts of Creve Coeur, Maryland Heights, Affton and Arnold. The second is that Carnahan has higher name recognition and also possesses experience running—and most of the time winning—tougher-than-expected races.

Still, recent history has shown that prior name recognition isn’t necessarily a be-all-end-all factor in elections. Current U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler—a Harrisonville, MO native who hadn’t been in elective office since the early 2000s—managed last year to dislodge U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Lexington. Skelton—who was the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee—was a borderline national figure who had ably won in a heavily Republican district.

That showed that, all things considered, the national mood toward a particular party matters come election day.


Meanwhile, the two major candidates in the 2nd District GOP primary continue to make moves roughly a year before they face off at the ballot box.

Wagner—a former chairwoman of the Missouri Republican Party and ambassador to Luxemburg—Tweeted on Wednesday that she met with House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-California. McCarthy is the third-highest ranking Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives behind Majority Leader Eric Canton, R-Virginia, and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Martin—an attorney and former chief of staff for former Gov. Matt Blunt, who lost to Carnahan last year—was on hand at this week’s St. Louis County Council meeting. He had previously sent a letter to the council opposing a proposed project labor agreement to build an . That effort for fears that debate over the issue would delay construction of the building before a looming Federal Communications Commission deadline.

flyoverland September 01, 2011 at 10:49 PM
Here's a thought. Why doesn't he just get a real job. The only reason he got elected is his name. Politics should not be a family business. If he runs in the 2nd, he will get crushed. The question isn't where should he run, its why?


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