Morning Digest: Ann Wagner not ruling out Senate bid, but special election in her backyard's a worry

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Leading Off

MO-Sen, MO-02: Very interesting. In response to reports (all of which have relied only on anonymous sources) suggesting that GOP Rep. Ann Wagner might be reconsidering her decision not to run for the Senate, Wagner herself isn’t shooting down the notion. In a new interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Wagner didn’t rule out a run, instead saying, “I am focused on my work … in the 2nd Congressional District.” When pressed further as to whether that constituted a proverbial “Shermanesque” disavowal, Wagner would only say, “I won’t be quoting Sherman today.”​

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​If Wagner goes for it, of course, that would set her up on a collision course with state Attorney General Josh Hawley. And while his campaign has gotten bruised up lately, he still remains the apparent favorite of much of the Missouri GOP establishment. But Wagner at least is unlikely to blame human trafficking on the sexual revolution, and while she has her weaknesses, she’s a very strong fundraiser, an area where Hawley has lagged. (His burn rate, in particular, was much higher than Claire McCaskill’s in the fourth quarter of last year.)

There’s also another reason why Wagner might want to seek a promotion. On Tuesday night, Democrats flipped a dark red seat in a state House special election in Missouri (see our item below), a district that happens to be contained almost entirely within Wagner’s congressional seat. Ominously, that legislative district, the 79th, is considerably redder: Donald Trump won it 61-33, a far wider margin than his 53-42 win in the 2nd Congressional District. By contrast, Trump won Missouri 56-38, though of course Wagner would be a challenger rather than an incumbent if she ran for Senate, and McCaskill is no pushover.

But even at home, it’s not necessarily smooth sailing. Wagner’s drawn a credible Democratic opponent in attorney Cort VanOstran, who actually outraised her last quarter, $115,000 to $104,000. Wagner still has a huge cash lead of $2 million to VanOstran’s $334,000, but Missouri’s 2nd is one of the best-educated and most affluent districts in the country—precisely the sort of suburban turf where Trumpism plays worst. Wagner might have a rocky 2018 no matter where she runs.