Within hours of his entrance into the Missouri Senate race, Kansas City lawyer Craig O’Dear has already netted more “earned media”–i.e. free publicity–than any “independent” candidate in recent memory. As to why O’Dear has been so successful, there is not much mystery.
“Could this independent candidate complicate the Senate race for McCaskill and Hawley?” asks the Kansas City Star disingenuously in its headline. The short answer is no. O’Dear cannot complicate the senate race for McCaskill and Hawley. He can only complicate the race for Republican Josh Hawley. Incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill knows this. Hawley knows this. The Star pretends not to know it.
Like most corporate attorneys in Kansas City, O’Dear is something of a classic Whig, pro-business but above those messy social issues that don’t play well at the country club. O’Dear has donated to both parties over the years, most notably $3,200 to Republican Gov. Eric Greitens’ successful 2016 campaign.
As to why he’s running, O’Dear told the Star, “The problem in the United States Senate is everything is controlled by two caucuses . . . We have got to find a way to introduce some non-caucus space in this country.” The St. Louis Post-Dispatch headlines O’Dear’s bid with a quote about a “hyper-partisan race.” O’Dear, the reader is told, hopes to help “create a center.”
Good luck with that. No fool, O’Dear has to know he cannot win more than 5 percent of the vote. He has no experience, no base, no issue around which anyone could possibly rally. Unlike Greg Orman in Kansas, O’Dear shows no inclination to drop a few million of his own dollars to advance his cause. So the question remains–why has he taken a leave of absence from his high-power law firm, Bryan Cave, to enter the race?
The likely answer can be found on O’Dear’s Twitter page. Although a nominal Republican, he despises President Trump. His Twitter feed is–or, more accurately, was–filled with retweets of attacks on Trump largely from the NeverTrump right, especially from Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol. (Curiously, when this reporter went back to quote some of these retweets, they were gone.)
If the local media refuse to catch on to O’Dear’s likely motivation, the national media already has. A Newsweek headline from January 18 makes this clear: “Trump Presidency Could Be Derailed by This Unknown Missouri Attorney.”
That the national media would choose to breathe life into a candidate who has not the faintest chance of winning shows how Hydra-headed is the effort to embarrass Trump in Missouri. One element of the strategy–the Todd Akin gambit–the Sentinel laid out last week. After the first articles appeared about O’Dear’s bid in mid-January, someone resurrected a talk Hawley had given in December about sexual trafficking.
Although Hawley’s comments made perfect sense in context, the local and national media and the McCaskill campaign all tried to make Hawley look as foolish as they made Akin look in 2012. Not surprisingly, O’Dear piles on. “My concern is it is simply another manifestation of this culture war that is being fomented by the parties,” O’Dear told the Star about Hawley’s talk. “We don’t need leaders who are focused on fomenting culture warfare.”
This is perfect Whig speak. Not many people will listen. the ultra-Whig Jack Danforth has Hawley’s back in St. Louis. Most Kansas City Whigs live in Kansas, but then again O’Dear is not shooting for the moon. He’s got to be thinking, ‘Maybe 5 percent will be enough to do the job.’