From all appearances, every out-of-state writer who wants information about southwest Missouri politics goes to the same "expert," George Conner, a professor at Missouri State University, which could be one reason why so many national stories about this region are off the mark.
Take for instance, this appraisal of auctioneer Billy Long's thriving candidacy:
“People scoffed at Billy Long when he announced when he was going to run, and they’re not scoffing now,” said George Connor, chairman of the political science department at Missouri State University in Springfield. Connor has followed southwest Missouri politics for almost 20 years.
Long out-raised both Goodman, who had $184,000 in receipts as of June 30, and Nodler, who tallied nearly $102,000. Moore, who started his campaign later, will be playing catch-up in the money chase, as will Wisdom, who was overseas on a Navy Reserve training mission for much of August.
No one who knows southwest Missouri politics was scoffing at Billy Long's candidacy. Consider these factors:
-Though three of the five candidates are from the Springfield area, only Long has picked up any traction, and it is likely to stay that way. THe CQ article insists that Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Darrell Moore can pick up votes because everyone else is more conservative and Moore leans toward moderate. That sounds like George Conner logic- Moderate does not play well in southwest Missouri Republican politics.
-If neither Moore or conservative college instructor Jeff Wisdom gains any momentum and there is no one reason to believe either of them will, Long is the best known candidate, and a fairly popular one, in the Springfield area, which is the biggest population center in the Seventh District.
-If you concede that Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, will garner most of the votes in the Branson area and Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, will win the Joplin area, it could very well come down to which candidate can pick off the most votes in the other's home area. Billy Long should do far better in this area, than Gary Nodler or Jack Goodman will do in Springfield.
-Many of Gary Nodler's traditional top contributors have already given the maximum amount for both the primary and general elections. An examination of their FEC filings, gives every indication that Long and Goodman, provided their campaigns move smoothly, and there has been on indication they won't, have more sources of money available to plumb. As for Nodler, the only way he is going to be able to access more big dollars is to have polls indicating that he is solidly in first place. I am not expecting that to happen.
-Long does not have a (pardon the pun) long record of quotes and actions to come back and haunt him. Elected politicians make a lot of enemies even when they are not controversial. Nodler's are ready to pounce.
-Goodman, as the CQ article points out, has already made a reference to Long during a speech, an obvious indication that the senator, who is a savvy politician sees Long, not Nodler, as the main obstacle to overcome.
-The Joplin/Carthage/Neosho area has a small, but big enough to count, contingent of Democrats who have absolutely no reason to vote in the Democratic primary (since few Democrats ever run in this area and fewer win). Those Democrats will do whatever they can to make sure Gary Nodler is not elected to Congress, so you can expect them to decide which candidate, most likely either Long or Goodman, has the best chance of winning, and then they will vote for that candidate. And those are the votes that put Nodler into the senate in the first place, since Newton and Jasper County Democrats, mistakenly thinking Nodler was the lesser of two evils, helped provide him with the razor-thin margin that lifted him over Rep. Gary Burton, R-Joplin in 2002.
-Nodler's powerful position in the Senate is not going to do him that much good between now and next August. He is a term-limited Senator and no one has to worry about getting on his bad side. The reaction to his recent Career Ladder pronouncement, a swift denunciation from members of his own party, including fellow senators, shows Nodler does not inspire fear or respect among his colleagues.
It is a long time between now and next August, but unless Nodler can suddenly convince southwest Missourians that he is either lovable or inevitable, or unless Darrell Moore or Jeff Wisdom finds a way to make inroads in Springfield, this is a race between Billy Long and Jeff Goodman.
Unless, of course, Sarah Steelman enters the race.