By Sam Foster
There is only one Republican in the race to unseat Missouri's Democrat senator Claire McCaskill, but already it looks like this has all the makings of a contentious race.
I've been looking for a chink in Bungalow Bill's 2012 MO senate race coverage for some time now (he really has the race locked up tight) and my moment came while trolling the latest Politico blogger David Catanese, who is covering election news. David, with his ear to the ground, took note that Republican senate hopeful Sarah Steelman has been meeting with Senate Tea Party insurgent leader Jim DeMint.
Catanese, Linking to Hotline On Call:
DeMint has become a key figure in the Tea Party movement. He backed 11 Tea Party candidates in the 2010 cycle, several in contested Republican primaries -- including Sens.-elect Rand Paul (Ky.), Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Mike Lee (Utah). DeMint's Senate Conservatives Fund invested more than $5.6 million in those candidates for the cycle -- and that financial backing could be critical to Steelman, who has struggled to fundraise in the past.
Matt Hoskins, a spokesman for DeMint's Senate Conservatives Fund, confirmed the meeting in Washington to Hotline On Call. Hoskins said the conversation focused on Steelman's outsider credentials.
"They discussed the Senate race in Missouri and the need to elect more leaders who will stand up to the big spenders in Washington," Hoskins said. "While the Senator has not made an endorsement in this race, he was very impressed with Steelman and encouraged her to keep working to build grassroots support."
The Senate Conservative Fund has also begun the vetting process and is considering endorsing Steelman, according to sources involved in the deliberations. If he does back her, Steelman would be DeMint's first endorsement of the 2012 cycle.
Ballot Box adds to the reports stating that Jim DeMint is "impressed" with Steelman.
Two other names have been thrown out as potential challengers to Sarah Steelman; Lt Governor Peter Kinder and former senator Jim Talent. There seems to be some strong evidence that Peter Kinder will make a bid for governor and not senate. Jim Talent currently holds a large lead over Sarah Steelman in the polls.
However, I wonder and can only speculate what an early Jim DeMint endorsement could do in this race, regardless of Steelman's abilities. A nod from DeMint would all but guarantee some substantial funding and Tea Party activist ground support. It would make her a very formidable primary challenge, even if she is the least likely to beat Claire McCaskill.
Bungalow Bill does not seem convinced of Steelman and while I don't know enough about any of the candidates to give an informed opinion as of yet, I trust Bill's judgment.
Although outscooped, Bungalow Bill sees Steelman as playing an inside the ballpark run that may keep Jim Talent out of the race:
We are barely out of the midterm elections and there is already talk of Jim DeMint, the Club for Growth, and Republican Senatorial Committee endorsing Sarah Steelman even before a challenger comes forward in the Republican primary. What we are seeing here is a deal of who's next in line for the Republican nod once again. This is one thing that I get tired of in Republican politics--the chose next. It's what gave us Bob Dole in 1996, John McCain in 2008, and apparently it's going to give us Sarah Steelman for Senate in 2012.
Obviously, there has been a deal made that kept Sarah Steelman out of the 2010 Senate race against Roy Blunt, and now those favors are being quickly repaid as even good name conservatives like Jim DeMint is embracing the Missouri blonde bimbo. Surely it's not the mini skirt barely covering the 52 year old legs of Steelman is it Mr. DeMint? Cause it surely can't be her brains. She has a masters degree in Economics and can barely have a conversation on free trade.
Which is interesting on two points. First of all, one has never garnered for a Jim DeMint endorsement as an "inside candidate." This is to say, in transitioning to the second point, Steelman could be the first.
If what Bill is saying is the political truth in this story, than what we have witnessed in 2010 is the quick and powerful ascendency of Jim DeMint to major senatorial power player and why not? DeMint backed candidates savaged establishment candidates over the last two years. DeMint might just have the biggest and most authoratative thumb in the GOP wrestling match as far as senate races go and that means watching him will be key for 2012.