Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder (R)Given the extremely rocky road he's traveled down these past many months, it's no surprise that Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder finally decided not to run for governor. In a late Friday statement, he announced he would not seek his party's nod to challenge Dem Gov. Jay Nixon next year.
Long considered the presumptive Republican nominee, Kinder faced a series of serious stumbles all year long?all of his own making. (Or as he called it, a "nimbus.") In the spring, the St. Louis Post Dispatch revealed that Kinder had billed taxpayers for stays of two months a year at St. Louis luxury hotels, so that he could attend society balls, baseball games, and Tea Party conventions. Only after picking a huge, ugly fight with the Dispatch did he finally reimburse the state, and even then, it was impossible to know how much he owed since the state's Republican auditor whitewashed his investigation.
Later, over the summer, a photo emerged of Kinder in the company of a former stripper at a St. Louis bar which advertises that "every night's a pantless party." It turned out that Kinder had long known the woman, Tammy Chapman, and she subsequently gave a damaging interview in which she described Kinder's years-long (and unwanted) "obsession" with her, including non-stop visits to the strib club where she worked. Kinder emerged from hiding after several days to deny Chapman's interpretation of their relationship, but the fact that he repeatedly came to see her while she was working went uncontested.
All of this came on top of Kinder's reputation for "odd social skills" and embarrassing antics on Twitter. (Sample tweet: "MUST READ :) RT @instapundit: TOP TWENTY worst #TrampStamp #tattoos".) His polling against Nixon had also been abysmal, to the point that Kinder even released an August internal poll showing him down "just" seven points (and this was supposed to count as good news). And when his fundraising dried up thanks to all of unforced errors, Kinder claimed he just wanted to give donors "a break."
Things had gotten so bad for Kinder that Democrats were unquestionably rooting for him not to bail. Well, we can't always be so lucky, I suppose. Wealthy plastics magnate Dave Spence entered the Republican field a week ago, undoubtedly spurred by Kinder's weakness. Conversely, Spence's move probably helped clarify Kinder's thinking. Kinder's departure makes Spence the instant front-runner for his party's nod, particularly since Kinder endorsed him when he announced he was dropping out. At the same time, Nixon's bid for re-election just became more difficult, no question, but he's a strong fundraiser with a healthy level of crossover support and still retains the advantage.
As for Kinder, don't worry: We will still have him to kick around some more. He said on Friday that he'd seek a third term as Lieutenant Governor, and Democrats have a very credible candidate, former state Auditor Susan Montee, ready to take him on. Should be a fun race.