ST. LOUIS (CN) — The Trump train that barreled through the country in 2016 seems to have derailed and the fallout could lead to a change in power in the Missouri governor’s mansion.
According to the most recent SLU/YouGov poll, Republican Governor Mike Parson held just a two-point lead over Democratic challenger Nicole Galloway. It is a dramatic difference from the 13-point lead Parson enjoyed in another poll in March.
Kenneth Warren, a political science professor at St. Louis University who authored the poll, calls the race a dead heat. He believes Parson’s decline is tied with President Donald Trump’s decline in the state. Trump won Missouri by 18% in 2016, but has just a seven-point lead against Joe Biden in the Show-Me State, according to the same poll.
“Trump has fallen, a lot in every demographic,” Warren said in an interview. “And he's even fallen with the Evangelicals, but he's fallen, a lot among whites, which is real serious, particularly white women. And so, that presents a problem for Parson as well.”
While earning their respective parties’ nomination seems to be a forgone conclusion as Missourians head to the polls on Tuesday, the tightening race continues to draw national attention as November approaches.
There has already been considerable fundraising for both sides. Galloway brought in more than $1.1 million in the second quarter of 2020 (April through June) with no in-person events. Parson reported $1.4 million cash on hand.
Parson, one of just two current governors without a college degree, faces several obstacles aside from being tied to Trump, the biggest perhaps being the state’s struggle to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. On Thursday, the state set a new single-day high for new cases for the 11th time with 2,087 cases and it was recently added to 21 states considered a “red zone” for new Covid-19 cases by the White House coronavirus task force.
“It's a little hard to tell at this point exactly what impact the virus is going to have in terms of how people view politics, and frankly, their ability to participate in politics, come November,” Peverill Squire, a political science professor at the University of Missouri, Columbia, said in an interview.
Despite the recent increase in Covid-19 numbers, Parson has been reluctant to institute a statewide mask mandate, preferring to leave it up to local decision-makers.
“Right now, it's spiked like crazy,” Warren said. “So, the coronavirus will be a big factor and the fact that Missouri is not handled very well will not be good for him.”
Parson has also sided with Trump in a pro-police “law and order” stance regarding the protests stemming from George Floyd's death. Recently, Parson said he would pardon Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the couple who gained national headlines for threatening protesters walking by their St. Louis mansion with guns, from any criminal charges filed by St. Louis prosecutor Kim Gardner.
Such stances may ring true with rural Missouri, which is deeply red. But it could pose problems within the more liberal urban voting blocks such as St. Louis and Kansas City.
Warren said that balance can’t be ignored. While Galloway, the state’s auditor, ironically was the only Democrat to win a statewide office during the Trump wave of 2016, Missouri is not as GOP-dominated as it seems.
“The fact is, since 1992, Missouri's been dominated by Democrats,” Warren said. “There’s been Democratic governors except for Matt Blunt. We’ve had Mel Carnahan, (Bob) Holden, Matt Blunt came in, but then we had Jay Nixon . … don't assume that Missouri is so red.”
Another issue for Parson is that he wasn’t elected as governor. He was elected Lt. Governor in 2016, but was sworn in as the state’s 57th governor on June 1, 2018, after Eric Greitens resigned amid allegations of computer tampering and that he attempted to blackmail a mistress with a compromising photograph.