The search for the Peter Kinder Alternative has unofficially begun.
Last Thursday, a "Draft Jack- Danforth for Governor 2012" Facebook page was created. John "Jack" Danforth, of course, is the moderate and respected Republican from St. Louis who served in the U.S. Senate for eighteen years.
Now, Danforth is 75 years old and has been out of politics for sixteen years, spending much of his twilight years doing such things as serving as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Special Envoy to Sudan. It's unlikely he'd want jump into this race, or, for that matter, be governor of Missouri for the four years. (Though, interestingly enough, as an incumbent Senator in 1988 he beat Democrat challenger Jay Nixon, who was competing in his first statewide election, by 36 points.)
However, the existence of this page -- and its 243 "likes" -- does speak to the idea that many Republican voters may have already written-off the Kinder campaign.
This whole situation is strange, for reasons that have nothing to do with pants-less parties and fortysomething state Senators bringing brownies to women in strip clubs. Kinder, who denies the creepiest details of former stripper Tammy Chapman's accusations and claims that he coincidentally stumbled into the bar where she was working because he needed to use the bathroom, has not "officially" announced his candidacy because he wants to first "begin a statewide tour and visit every corner of the state and meet with conservatives, grass-roots activists and all Missouri voters, while listening to you and your concerns." He said this exactly four days after the Kansas City Star reported that Kinder spokesman Jared "Craighead insists the campaign is pushing full speed ahead."
Meanwhile, a major donor named David Humphreys asked for his money back and wants Kinder to not only give up his gubernatorial campaign, but resign from his lieutenant governor post.
And Republican lawmakers are saying things like:
"When you look at your principles, you think, 'Oh my gosh, can I really get my name behind someone like that?'" (State Rep Myron Neth, of Liberty)
"I'm anxious to see if someone else decides to pop up." (State Rep. Jerry Nolte, of Gladstone)
"Irresponsible decisions in his personal life have impugned his ability to lead publicly from a principled position." (State Rep Kevin Elmer of Nixa)
Yet there is Kinder, declaring a statewide tour to measure the support of Real Everyday Americans, because the "decision should reside in your hands, not a few power brokers or the media." No other Republican candidates have stepped up. And there is not an overwhelming wave of party colleagues denouncing Kinder, as there was for Anthony Weiner.
It's hard not to get the impression that the GOP shot callers might just let Kinder go ahead and run, willing to chalk this one up as a loss. Nixon's a strong incumbent this year. His approval rating hovers somewhere between 47 and 61, with his disapproval at half that. Plus, he's doing a fine job straddling the ideological fence. In a recent poll of voters in Missouri's conservative 2nd District, Nixon led Kinder by eleven points.
But it's too early to mail in the nomination. Especially given the growing frustration toward government in general. In fact, it's somewhat surprising more "[insert popular Missouri Republican] for Governor" Facebook pages haven't sprouted already.