You know it when you see it

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt put out a new ad on Thursday calling himself a “grill dad,” where he flips a burger and talks about increasing inflation.

Throughout his campaign, Schmitt has tried to present himself as a bit of an everyman. In the primary, he put out a campaign ad where he took batting practice. He emphasizes his devotion to the St. Louis Cardinals and recently tweeted a video of a Pearl Jam concert he attended.

This week, my colleague Kacen Bayless wrote about how Democratic nominee Trudy Busch Valentine’s family history is playing a role in the U.S. Senate race in Missouri. The family name helps her with both money (she’s an heir to the Anheuser Busch fortune) and name recognition (Rep. Emanuel Cleaver once noted to me that everyone in Missouri knows what Busch beer is).

But, having such a prominent and wealthy family can come with a downside. It can make one come off as one of those dreaded creatures in modern politics — an “elite.”

Schmitt’s campaign is trying to portray her as just that.

Not only do they put out an ad of him flipping burgers on the grill, they also repeatedly put “heiress” in front of her name. In one recent tweet, he criticized her campaign for talking about pumpkin spice lattes by showing him drinking a can of Busch Light (yes, ironically that’s where she got her fortune). In another, he compared her to Marie Antoinette. He talks about his college job taking out the trash at Grant’s Farm, the property her family owns.

Busch Valentine’s campaign has attempted to avoid the perception that their candidate is an “elite.” The most obvious attempt is their emphasis of her decision to become a pediatric nurse, even though it’s mostly been in a volunteer capacity since she started raising her own family.

The campaigns pay attention to this part of their image because “authenticity” is an extremely valued political trait. It can help voters feel a personal connection with the candidate, allowing them to build trust with the electorate.

Authenticity is not easy to manufacture. It’s a bit like that famous quote from former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, who said he couldn’t define what obscenity but “I know it when I see it.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum is being too authentic and straightforward. In his book “Why We Did It,” Tim Miller talks about an experience on the campaign trail for former Sen. John McCain for the 2008 presidential election. McCain was known for his “straight talk” and there was a campaign event in Iowa where the candidate was asked repeatedly about immigration and the voters clearly didn’t like what they heard.

In order to make a comeback later in the campaign, McCain had to pivot on immigration and give a more hard-line stance than what his actual legislative efforts in Congress showed. Is the new answer authentic?

Campaigns are very, very controlled spaces and a candidate’s image is one of the biggest things they attempt to control. So most campaigns face the same headache. How far do you go in allowing your candidate to be themselves? Do you keep them on message and risk them coming off as insincere? How much of their personality do you show?

Most campaigns will tell you that they’re showing off who their candidate really is. Most of them are full of it.

Instead, it’s left to voters to know it when they see it.

More from Missouri

The Missouri General Assembly passed a bill that would lower the state’s income tax. It’s a result of the special session called by Republican Gov. Mike Parson, who called the lawmakers in with the goal of lowering people’s tax burden given a surplus in state funds. The governor has promised to sign the bill.

Here are headlines from across the state:

And across Kansas

Amanda Adkins, the Republican nominee for Congress in Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District, backed House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s proposed legislative agenda if Republicans take control of Congress next year. But she wouldn’t commit to one of his major proposals — a parents’ bill of rights.

The latest from Kansas City

In Kansas City …

Have a news tip? Send it along to ddesrochers@kcstar.com

Odds and ends

Eric Adams tweet

The mayor of New York City — a place that smells like a mixture of urine and trash, where you have to give your first and second born children to pay rent and where there are apparently 2 million rodents just scurrying around underfoot — for some reason decided to pick a fight with Kansas.

I don’t really want to give room to whatever nonsense that man was uttering, but I do want to point out that Kansans had some wonderful counterpoints.

My favorite was from High Plains Public Radio reporter David Condos, who accurately pointed out that those were some big words from someone whose city doesn’t even have one of the largest hand-dug wells or the largest ball of twine.

Electoral Count reform

Congress came slightly closer to passing legislation in response to former President Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election by attempting to find a loophole in the 135 Electoral Count Act, which sets forth rules for how Congress certifies a presidential election.

The bill sailed through the Senate rules committee this week. The only Republican who voted against it was Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who was among the eight members of the U.S. Senate who attempted to overturn the results on January 6, 2021.

The Senate effort has picked up substantial bipartisan support, especially compared to the House version that passed last week. Along with the more than 10 Republican co-sponsors on the bill, it now has backing from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. That all but guarantees its ability to pass the upper chamber, even without the support of some like Sen. Josh Hawley, who has expressed reluctance about supporting the legislation.

Experts in constitutional and election law have stressed the importance of this legislation, saying its vital for democracy amid a concerted national effort to undermine voters faith in elections.

Still, the bill won’t make it through the Senate until after the midterm elections, when it’s politically safer for it to pass. That means it’ll have to get through both the House and Senate during the “lame duck” session after a new Congress has been elected in November.

Happy Friday

Read this about pickleball, since I walked by the tennis courts the other day and they were full of people wielding wooden paddles. When I was looking for a trout recipe the other night, I found this bizarre drink called The Natalie Portman? I saw Carly Rae Jepson last night. Don’t judge me, she’s a pop icon.

Enjoy your weekend.

Daniel Desrochers is the Star’s Washington, D.C. Correspondent
Daniel Desrochers is the Star’s Washington, D.C. Correspondent

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