Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Wheat Lost the Election, but He's Far from a Loser

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Wheat Lost the Election, but He's Far from a Loser

Article excerpt

ALL IN ALL, Democrat Alan Wheat probably never stood a chance this year.

Oh, he had a chance when he first announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat being given up by Missouri icon John Danforth. He's young, attractive and has experience in Congress. He's also a good "crossover" candidate.

Let me explain.

Politics can be compared to music. Some tunes cross over. They appeal to broader numbers of people than just their own genre. Some country and rhythm and blues songs become so popular that they appeal to a larger audience.

It's the same way with candidates. Danforth was an example of a good crossover candidate. He could always count on a decent number of traditional Democrats voting for him because of his moderate stance on issues.

Wheat, a black politician, is a good crossover candidate. He was elected to Congress in the 1980s from a district in Kansas City in which a majority of the voters were white. Every black candidate can't do that, but Wheat could, managing to win re-election over the years.

His crossover ability helped him sew up his party's nomination in August.

But it took work. More importantly, it took money.

That's because fellow Kansas Citian Marsha Murphy had challenged him. Her candidacy required Wheat, considered an early favorite, to dig deep into his pockets to win. That left him with nothing to spend for advertising immediately after the primary.

Even toward the end, Wheat's television ads were few, while his opponent, former Gov. John Ashcroft, blanketed the airwaves.

In addition, Wheat is an old-fashioned Democrat who's tough on issues like crime but who has compassion for those who aren't very well off. Of course, as we all know now, this wasn't a year in which voters liked Democrats or cared about compassion. The Republican "contract" said nothing about compassion. It talked about tax cuts and the like. In this election year, voters were clearly looking out for No. 1, most concerned about themselves and their own well-being. Considering the national Republican tide this year, I doubt that Wheat could have won the election even if he had been white.

Not to mention that Wheat ran against Ashcroft, who had been a rather popular governor. …

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