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New poll shows Emerson with big lead

Posted Friday, April 23, 2010, at 9:13 AM

A new poll released by a national polling group shows that the Eighth Congressional District race as "uncompetative" and incumbent Republican Jo Ann Emerson holding a commanding lead over her Democratic challenger, Tommy Sowers of Rolla.

Emerson, who has been a part of the political scene in this corner of Missouri since she and her late husband, Congressman Bill Emerson, moved back to Missouri in 1978, has the benefit of being known in virtually every corner of this huge congressional district.

Sowers, who is a newcomer to politics in the state, has the opposite position as the 2010 election cycle begins to warm up.

Sowers was born and raised in Rolla, the hometown of Missouri University of Science and Technology (formerly the University of Missouri-Rolla, and before that, the Missouri School of Mines). He attended Duke University on a ROTC scholarship, and was commissioned in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He served time in the NATO campaign of the Kosovo War, attended Special Forces Qualification Court, and served two deployments in Iraq.

Now, a word about Rolla. For those who haven't been to Rolla -- it's a lot different than the Bootheel. We have flat land that stretches for miles; they have rolling hills and roadways almost like rollercoasters. We grow corn, cotton, cattle -- virtually every crop that can be grown; they have cattle and rocks. I was born in Rolla -- didn't live there long, but still have family I visit up in the hills of Phelps and Dent counties. My grandmother's house was made of rocks.

Sowers' grandpa was Eddie Sowers, who was the publisher of the Rolla Daily News. When my dad returned home to Rolla after serving as a newspaper editor in the Army during World War II, he went to work for Sowers and was the editor of that daily newspaper. In 1956 he purchased the Dexter Statesman, and the Bootheel has been home ever since.

Eddie Sowers was every inch a stereotypical old-fashioned newspaper man. I once went on a harrowing car ride with him, Mrs. Sowers and my parents in Kansas City. It was during a Missouri Press Association convention, and all through the ride Mrs. Sowers was in the back seat yelling "Eddie, it's a one way street! It's a one way street!" His reply - "Well, Alma, I'm only going one way!" We were, indeed, going the wrong way on a downtown KC street!

Eddie and Alma's grandson has his work cut out for him. His party's standard bearer, Barak Obama, has only a 29 percent approval rating in the Eighth District. The poll released this week shows that only 37 percent of all voters know of him. More telling is that only 15 percent of voters surveyed feel they know enough about him to give him a rating. Even more problematic for Sowers is that nearly just as many voters have an unfavorable rating of him as a favorable opinion (8% favorable, 7% unfavorable).

Emerson, however, has numbers which most candidates would be envious. She leads Sowers 71 percent to 18 percent with only 10 percent of voters polled saying they were undecided in the race. She has a 71 percent favorable rating in the district. On top of it all, the momemetum is in the GOP's favor right now, with interest high among those folks identifying themselves as Republicans.

More telling, though, could be the statistic that one of the few areas we have had a firm policy stance from Sowers -- the Obama health care bill -- 23 percent of voters favor the new health care legislation and a whopping 63 percent oppose it. It will be interesting to see Sowers' position on other issues and how they fall in line with voters' opinions.

We haven't even hit Memorial Day yet, but it should be an interesting summer as the campaign season heats up. We will soon see candidates criss-crossing the state and our region -- shaking hands, kissing babies and handing out candy in parades.

By the way, the Missouri Republican Party has the all of the findings of the survey on its website at http://www.mogop.org/wp/2010/04/1906/

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Annabeth Miller is a political junkie, who grew up attending political functions with her newspaper publisher father and was hooked on Show-Me State politics at an early age. Her political memorabilia collection includes a charm bracelet given to her by Vice President Hubert Humphrey during his 1968 visit to Dexter. She considers seeing George Wallace at an event in Poplar Bluff and meeting Lady Margaret Thatcher as some of her most thrilling political moments. "Political Buzz" will keep an eye on politics in the Bootheel and the Show-Me State, providing added news and coverage on politics in our region.
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