WASHINGTON • While Missouri has voted for GOP candidates in the last four presidential elections, Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign easily outraised the entire Republican field through June among Missouri donors who gave at least $200, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Part of that gap is because the Republican field is much larger, with 17 major candidates, said Dave Robertson, head of the Department of Political Science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Republican donors in general, he said, are waiting for the GOP field to sort out after the group’s first debate Thursday night.
“The money people in Missouri are going to hold back to see who is going to at least gain a little more traction in the Republican contest,” he said.
Rep. William Lacy Clay, who has endorsed Clinton, said he’s been told that if Clinton wins the nomination she will vigorously contest Missouri as part of a strategy to win all the states from Minnesota to Louisiana in the “center of America.” Missouri is in the middle of that line of states that Bill Clinton carried in 1992 and 1996.
“They went straight down the map, won Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana,” Clay said of Bill Clinton’s two campaigns. Hillary Clinton “is going to try” to do it again.
However, Republican Mitt Romney easily won Missouri over Obama in 2012, along with Arkansas and Louisiana. Missouri’s statehouse is historically dominated by the GOP, and national political analysts say the state is trending Republican in presidential races.
While Obama nearly won the state in 2008, he contested it far less vigorously four years later.
“If Republicans are in trouble here in Missouri, they are very much in trouble” nationally in a presidential campaign, Robertson said.
But the state could take on more a swing status with Clinton, or if the GOP nominates Florida candidates Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, or Ohio Gov. John Kasich for president, said Mitchell McKinney, a professor of political communications at the University of Missouri.
If those swing states, which have trended Democrat lately, are more in play in 2016, the Democratic nominee would be compelled to compete more heavily in more marginal swing states, like Missouri, McKinney said.
Among Republicans, some contenders are showing early fundraising strength in Missouri.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose campaign manager, Jeff Roe, has deep Missouri roots, has outpaced the rest of the GOP field with about $139,000 from Missourians, followed by Dr. Ben Carson’s $65,000. Bush, the former governor of Florida, raised about $44,000.
But Clinton’s campaign raised more than $708,000 from Missouri donors, dwarfing the entire Republican field’s take of roughly $434,000.
The state data compiled by the FEC does not include “Super PACs” aligned with the candidates, who have largely been funded by large donations from wealthy individuals spread around the country.
Nationally, Super PACs raised an unprecedented $258 million for or against presidential candidates through June, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That is almost double the $130 million the actual campaigns raised over the first six months of the year.
A Center for Responsive Politics analysis found that, through June, 35 people gave at least $1 million to presidential Super PACS. None of those donors are from Missouri or Illinois. The analysis showed the big winners nationally were former Bush and Clinton. Bush raised $114 million, Clinton $71 million.
Robertson said he expects Bush to exploit familial connections to Missouri. His grandfather, Prescott, worked in St. Louis as a young man. And Jack Oliver, a senior policy adviser for Bryan Cave in St. Louis and Washington, is a national finance co-chair of Bush’s presidential campaign. The other co-chair is Woody Johnson, owner of the NFL’s New York Jets.
Oliver called Missouri “a key state for Jeb’s campaign.”
The Republican presidential fundraising picture is somewhat distorted because Donald Trump, the leader among polls in the GOP field, is largely self-financing his campaign and announced his candidacy just two weeks before the second-quarter reporting deadline.
Meanwhile, Cruz was one of the first in launching March 23. Cruz’s national campaign spokesman Rick Tyler said he suspects that Roe’s Missouri connections have something to do with his boss’s fundraising lead among Missouri donors so far.
Tyler also said that two of four “quadrants” of the Republican Party that Cruz has ideological affinity with, or has focused on in the campaign so far, are important components of today’s Republican Party in Missouri.
Those two sections, he said, are Tea Party sympathizers and evangelicals.
The other two segments, according to Tyler, are “establishment” Republicans, who may gravitate toward candidates like Bush; and libertarians, to whom candidates like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul are appealing.
Evangelicals are crucial voters in the early Republican caucus and primary states of South Carolina and Iowa, but they are also important in Missouri, which will join Illinois, Florida and Ohio in a potentially pivotal primary day on March 15.
As for Democrats, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders raised only $22,000 from Missourians through June, but he launched his candidacy in late May, six weeks after Clinton. McKinney said a recent Sanders “meet up” in Columbia attracted a robust crowd.
Clinton campaign spokesman Tyrone Gayle told the Post-Dispatch that Clinton considers Missouri an important “March state” in the road to the nomination. He said that Clinton has twice appeared in Missouri for campaign events and fundraisers, as much as any other state other than the first four: Iowa (caucus on Feb. 1), New Hampshire (Feb. 9), South Carolina (Feb. 20), and Nevada (Feb. 23).