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Missouri: GOP Senate Primary Is Tossup to the End

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
In the Missouri Senate GOP primary race, Rep. Todd Akin is seen as a lackluster campaigner, burdened by his comfort with earmarking, among other weaknesses.

Voters across four states head to the polls today to decide primaries, with the GOP Senate race in Missouri getting marquee billing.

The races worth watching are in Michigan, Missouri and Washington. Kansas is also holding primaries, but all four Congressional races are rated as Safe Republican and not competitive this fall.

There are two Member-vs.-Member races on tap today, and both feature a white Member versus a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. In both instances, however, one Member has a clear advantage over the other going into primary day. In Missouri, Rep. William Lacy Clay is expected to easily defeat Rep. Russ Carnahan in a Democratic battle of well-known Missouri political families. In Michigan, Rep. Gary Peters is the clear favorite over Rep. Hansen Clarke in a redrawn Detroit-based district.

Two other races of note in the Wolverine State are the Democratic primary where Rep. John Conyers is seeking a 25th term and the wacky race in the 11th district, where the GOP establishment is backing a write-in candidate.  

Polls in Missouri are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. CST. Here are the races worth watching tonight:


There’s no prohibitive frontrunner in today’s very competitive and expensive Republican Senate primary in Missouri. The victor could easily be Rep. Todd Akin, businessman John Brunner or former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman.

The underdog in the Show-Me State, however, is clear: vulnerable Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, who will face the winner of the primary in November.

Brunner and Steelman, both partial self-funders, are seen as the stronger general election candidates by Democrats — and some Republicans, too. Akin is seen as a lackluster campaigner, burdened by his comfort with earmarking, among other weaknesses.

Still, in a recent nonpartisan public poll for St. Louis media outlets, all three GOP challengers led the first-term incumbent in horse-race matchups.

Brunner had an edge over his competitors in that poll and others, but not so much of an edge that he can be seen as the true frontrunner, Missouri insiders said.

“I would not be surprised with any of them winning,” said one top Missouri GOP consultant who has been looking at recent internal tracking polls. “This thing could be decided by less than 10,000 votes. It’s going to be tight as hell.”

Brunner, the former CEO of pharmaceutical and personal-care product manufacturer Vi-Jon Inc., has put millions of dollars of his own fortune into his campaign.

All that money has worked to raise his visibility in a state where he was completely unknown as recently as last year. Brunner allies believe their messaging has worked.

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