As Gov. Jay Nixon and Sen. Claire McCaskill led a blue resurgence in a red state, some started mixing mentions of the Missouri governor with the year 2016.
St. Louis Post Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan may have been among the first to suggest a Democratic Nixon taking run at White House. But national media have since picked up on the story, including the Huffington Post.
“I think if Gov. Nixon were to run for president in 2016, he would use the Bill Clinton model from 1992 and run as a centrist or moderate,” said David Kimball, professor of political science at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.
Others believe a run against Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt is much more likely.
Kimball said a presidential candidate from Missouri isn't any more out of the question than a candidate from Arkansas was in 1992. In fact, Nixon's candidacy would take on much of Clinton's moderate appeal.
“His argument would be that this is a Democrat who can do well with white voters, and he’s the kind of moderate candidate Democrats need to broaden their support,” Kimball said.
Pull to the middle
Nixon’s successful campaigns for governor already positioned himself as a moderate Democrat.
“I think he ran as a moderate or independent,” said the UMSL professor. “Out of necessity a Democratic governor of Missouri has to position himself as a moderate and take positions like Gov. Nixon’s opposition to any tax increases. He even avoided photos with President Barack Obama, except in Joplin after tornadoes devastated the southwest Missouri town.
"But he aligned with Democrats on key issues like labor and abortion,” Kimbal said.
But the moderate position might hurt Nixon in more liberal states in a presidential run, Kimball said.
“I think the country and the Democratic party are more diverse than they were in 1992,” he said.
Nixon might have difficulty winning Democratic primaries in more liberal states, Kimball said.
“Democratic voters and activists would be trying to pin him down about his views on different topics, and that would be interesting,” he said.
Nixon’s run for governor included hunting photos, broadening his appeal in outstate and rural areas in Missouri. It also suggests he may take a more conservative approach to gun laws, although it hasn’t been defined.
“I’ve never heard him talk about gun control one way or another,” Kimball said.
The hunter image resonates in Missouri, but a photo of Nixon posing with his deer might not play well in New York or California.
Taxes would be another sticking point, Kimball said.
“He’s steadfastly against any tax increase. He said he was even against raising the cigarette tax based on that premise. Being against raising taxes among Democratic primary voters nationwide—that’s a tough sell,” Kimball said.
So what do Democrats think about the possibility of having a Nixon on their 2016 ticket? Maybe it’s a bit too early to say.
“We’re just celebrating winning tonight,” said Brittany Burke, Communications Coordinator for the Missouri Democratic party on Tuesday evening.