KANSAS CITY — Voters in Missouri and Kansas appear poised to nominate well-known political veterans, not upstarts from the outside, for most of the major spots on the November ballot.
In Nevada, Pennsylvania, Utah and Kentucky, voters have taken out their wrath on incumbents and longtime politicians by nominating renegades and relative newcomers to ballot spots. In Florida, an independent leads in the Senate race.
But the situation in Kansas and Missouri is different, political observers said. Voters there are mad, but outsiders have been relatively unorganized and underfunded, and mainstream politicians have been able to pre-empt the anti-Washington message.
“The tea party here has not found a candidate like (Rand) Paul in Kentucky,” said George Connor, a Missouri State University political scientist. “It’s like organized anarchy.”
In Missouri, for example, Chuck Purgason seemed close to a perfect fit for a tea party candidate for the U.S. Senate, Connor said. Purgason, a state senator from south-central Missouri, wants to downsize government. He argues that taxes are too high. He has pounded on U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, his GOP primary opponent, as the consummate Washington insider.
But Purgason’s campaign never appeared to take off — in part because he may have entered the race just to make a point, Connor said.
He never raised much money. Blunt was able to muscle away endorsements from the likes of U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, a national tea party leader from Minnesota, which angered more than two dozen tea party groups in the state.
Pre-empting tea party rage, it seems, is now a mainstream tactic.
“Whenever there’s discontent in the electorate, every candidate would like to tap into it,” said John Hancock, a longtime GOP strategist in Missouri.
Discontent still appears to be rampant. Just 21 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, according to the latest polls. More than 72 percent disapprove.
President Barack Obama is upside down in job approval, too. Only 46 percent approve of the job he is doing, while 49 percent disapprove.
What’s more, only 33 percent of Americans think the country is headed in the right direction. Almost twice as many say it is headed the wrong way.
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